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Buford girls going for fourth basketball state title in Macon

Lady Wolves facing St. Pius X for Class AAA championship Saturday

POSTED: March 6, 2014 11:38 p.m.
Scott Rogers | The Times/

Buford's Katy Bisges, right, grabs hold of a loose ball with teammate Marissa Bruce, top, and Woodward Academy's Madison Richardson, left, during the state quarterfinals on Feb. 27 in Buford. The Lady Wolves won 62-45.

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BUFORD — The Buford girls’ basketball team is back in a familiar place.

After missing out on a state championship game appearance last season, the second-ranked Lady Wolves (30-2) will face third-ranked St. Pius X (29-3) in Saturday’s Class AAA state championship game in Macon.

The championship game appearance is Buford’s fifth in the past six years.

“The first thing is it is about the kids. It is never about the coaching staff or me,” Buford coach Gene Durden said.

“But I think being so familiar in that environment, it helps me keep our kids calm and it doesn’t overwhelm me, because they are going to take on the attitude of the coach.”

The championship game is a rematch from last season’s state quarterfinals. St. Pius X, which has won four state titles dating back to 2004, won the game 56-43, ending Buford’s four-year streak of appearing in a state championship game.

It’s a loss the Lady Wolves believe will help them in this year’s championship meeting.

“I feel like we know what to expect,” junior Corey Staples said. “We don’t want to harp or get revenge, but I think we are a lot more motivated this year.”

One thing Buford might be more prepared for this season, compared to last year, is guarding St. Pius X’s Asia Durr, the nation’s top-rated player. The junior, who has offers from nearly every major Division-I women’s program, leads the Golden Lions with 24.1 points per game this season.

Durden said the Lady Wolves would not guard Durr with any one particular player, saying instead they will use several different players within their defensive scheme, which is responsible for holding eight of the Lady Wolves’ past 12 opponents to less than 30 points.

One player who will likely see significant time guarding Durr is Staples, who Durden described as the leader of the full-court press.

“The great thing is we faced (Durr) last year, so we know what she is capable of doing,” Durden said. “She is definitely, definitely the real deal. With us being a defensively minded team, it is going to be a great challenge for us.”

Following last season’s quarterfinal loss, Buford’s girls came back focused and even more determined to return to a state championship game. Following their quarterfinal win over Woodward Academy, senior Bree Horrocks (11 points, 8 rebounds per game) said the Lady Wolves were playing “the right way” this season, compared to past seasons.

Durden elaborated on Horrocks comments this week, saying he thinks this team has some of the best chemistry compared to previous teams.

“I just think these kids are all together and their chemistry and what they’re trying to do together is special,” Durden said. “We’ve had some very talented kids here, but sometimes they want to rely on talent than intangibles. And I think this team relies a lot more on their intangibles.”

Along with slowing down Durr, Buford will also be faced with the challenge of slowing down Georgia signee Jasmine Carter, who is second on the Golden Lions’ roster with an average of 13.5 points per game this season.

Facing the challenge of a good shooting team with talented players, Durden has been stressing to his team to stay focused on what has worked for them this season.

“I’ve just been talking to my dad and Coach Durden and it’s been just play your game, don’t worry about who you’re playing,” junior Camille Anderson said. “I think our team knows that, too. We aren’t going to fret about it.

We’re just going to work harder.”

Anderson leads Buford in scoring this season with 14 points per game, while Staples is averaging just less than 10 points per game since being limited after missing five games due to a knee injury.

With Staples working her way back to full strength from her injury, Anderson and Horrocks have been the driving forces for Buford this postseason. It’s a postseason run that featured the Lady Wolves winning four games in an 10-day span, ending with last Saturday’s 64-46 win over Pike County in the state semifinals.

They won those four playoff games by an average of 20½ points.

In the three playoff games just last week, Anderson averaged 18.3 points, while Horrocks averaged a double-double, led by a 24-point performance in the quarterfinals.

After playing so many games in a quick span, Buford has enjoyed a week off to prepare for the championship game.

“I think it was a great situation and it helped us with our depth because we were playing a lot of kids in that stretch,” Durden said. “But now it is a fine line with this week off because you want to keep them sharp and crisp but you don’t want to take their legs.”


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