Stratford basketball has high expectationsBy Paul LeckerSports ReporterSTRATFORD – After a run all the way to the sectional finals a season ago, and the bulk of its team returning, the Stratford boys basketball team has high expectations for the 2017-18 campaign.The Tigers couldn’t wait to hit the floor for their season opener on Nov. 21 and it showed. Stratford jumped out to a 22-1 lead and crushed Colby 89-20.The dominance Stratford showed was on both ends of the floor as it hustled relentlessly on the defensive end, forcing 32 turnovers and shooting 54 percent from the field.The Tigers poured in 55 points in the first half, using every player on their roster. Stratford ended up with 13 different players tallying at least one basket.“The defense, I was very, very pleased with,” Stratford coach Curt Schmidt said. “We played man-to-man the whole game. Our help, our movement, it was good. I was very excited about that.”Stratford is just three players from its rotation last season.All-Marawood Conference South Division honorable mention selection Vaughn Breit, a 6-foot-4 sophomore forward, is back after averaging 11.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in conference play, and scoring 24 points in a regional final win over Auburndale.Also returning is senior point guard Brenden Fecker, who followed up a 20-point game against Auburndale with 32 in a sectional semifinal victory over Neillsville.Junior Paul Huther, another 6-foot-4 forward; senior guard Trent Heckel; and junior guards, Lance Heidmann and Okley Wrensch are also back after seeing significant minutes last year for the Tigers.“We played a lot this summer and had 10-12 kids show up every single night,” Schmidt said. “It means something.“The kids are excited and we’re excited. We just want to enjoy the journey and don’t want to get stuck on the what-ifs and all that, we want to take it one game at a time. We want to enjoy every moment because the kids have worked hard just to start the season.”While Stratford does have four seniors on the roster, it will still have to rely on a number of underclassmen to maintain the success it saw last year when it finished 18-9 after the long playoff push.