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Buford basking in possibility of 2 teams playing for a title
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BUFORD - The amount of postseason experience separating the Buford girls and boys basketball team is exponential.

The Lady Wolves (27-3) have won two straight Class AA titles in convincing fashion, while the Wolves (23-8) haven't reached the semifinals since 2006.

The Lady Wolves have five seniors hoping to leave the program with three rings and two Division-I players in University of Tennessee commits Andraya Carter and Kaela Davis, who already have three rings between them.

But regardless of the difference in postseason success, these two programs have plenty in common.

For starters, they're both playing in tonight's Class AA semifinals against the Laney Wildcats, whose boys lost to Buford the last time the Wolves reached the semifinals, and whose girls have lost two straight semifinals against Buford.

The opposition isn't the only thing in common. These two programs also share the same attitude.

"It's going to be fun, but it's business," Carter said of her third trip to Macon. "We're going down there to prove a point.

We'll have fun afterward.

"We have one goal and one thing to do."

The Wolves feel the same way, and they don't care that they're the underdogs against Laney, which started the year 26-0 before falling to Swainsboro in the Region 6-AA championship game.

"We're going down there to win," Wolves coach Allen Whiteheart said. "It's a business trip."

The Wolves will be the first of the two teams to tip off tonight, which is a role reversal from the regular season.

"It's nice that they're playing before us," Lady Wolves coach Gene Durden said. "We're looking forward to getting to the arena early and supporting the boys."

That type of encouragement is something those boys aren't used to.

For the past three years the Wolves have been nonexistent at Buford. While the girls were building the foundation for winning back-to-back state titles, the boys were losing game after game, and they entered this year with three straight losing seasons. Few gave them credit even when they earned a top 10 ranking midway through the season.

"No one thought we'd make it this far," said senior Alex Flagler, who hit a game-winning 3-pointer against South Atlanta in the quarterfinals. "We're all humble, and we want to prove to everybody we're a good team."

Flagler's teammate Zac Lynn echoed that statement, and for someone whose been with the Wolves through all the low points, making it to Macon is a dream come true.

"I knew we could turn it around," Lynn said. "This year, we really came around and worked hard."

All that hard work earned them a chance to play the Wildcats, who have really good guard play according to Whitehead.

"The key is to contain them," Whitehead said. "We've had a good mix (of results during the season) to prepare us for where we are."

So have the Lady Wolves, who were relegated to practicing Wednesday in the auxiliary gym. According to Durden, his team played four nationally ranked teams this year and two former state champions this season.

"We're definitely tested," Durden said. "We've got kids who have been in that situation and know what it takes to win a ball game."

Carter, who won a state title in each of her first two seasons at Buford, and Davis, who won one last year as a freshman at Class AAAAA Norcross, are two of the main players Durden will be counting on tonight.

"Last year helped a lot with this situation," said Davis, the daughter of former NBA player Antonio Davis. "My parents have helped a lot and have always helped me prepare. I don't want to let anyone down."

That's been evident throughout her first year at Buford, and when teamed up with Carter, the Lady Wolves are almost impossible to beat.

Just don't tell them that.

"Everybody knows that every team is going to bring their best against us," Carter said. "We have to balance our focus and excitement if we want to win another title."

If they don't, a third straight championship might not happen, and it's that thought that is keeping the Lady Wolves focused.

"Everyone is mentally on the same page," Davis said. "Everyone's focus is where it needs to be, and we all have a positive outlook."

The players can thank Durden for that because the coach won't let his team become complacent.

"If I'm not focused, the kids won't be focused," Durden said. "I constantly tell them that climbing the mountain is hard, but staying up there is harder."

The Lady Wolves will need to get past Laney for a third straight season in order to play for a chance to remain on top. Despite his team's 19.5 point margin of victory over the Lady Wildcats, Durden is not taking the team from Augusta lightly.

"You don't want to make a big deal of the past," he said. "Confidence is a great thing to have, but the main thing is you have to be prepared to play.

"We don't want to beat ourselves."

If they avoid that, the Lady Wolves will be on the verge of bringing yet another state title to Buford, and this year, they might have some company on the way back home.


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