BUFORD — In the end, Buford’s height and athleticism was too much for East Hall.
Led by 6-foot-8 center Rakim Lubin, the Wolves pulled away during a third quarter filled with rim-rattling dunks and downed the Vikings 74-66 on Tuesday night at Buford High.
Lubin led all scorers with 21 points and finished with seven rebounds despite not playing the entire fourth quarter, after being charged with a technical foul following his second alley-oop dunk.
“I thought in the second half, their size and strength kind of caused us some problems,” East Hall coach Joe Dix said. “We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, and we have to shoot the ball well in order to do some of the things we want to get done.”
Tuesday’s game set the stage for what could be a fairly competitive season in Region 7-AAA, especially for Buford (4-3, 1-0 Region 7-AAA) and East Hall (4-2, 1-1) .
Both teams had to withstand strong emotion inside Buford’s gym, an indication of what the two squads should expect later in region play.
“Our kids know their kids so well,” Buford coach Allen Whitehart said. “We are right down the road from each other. Joe does a fabulous job. I told my kids coming in, they were coming in to set the stage for the region.”
After trailing 34-32 at the half, Buford came out and took control late in the third quarter behind the play of Lubin.
Using his size to his advantage in the paint, Lubin accounted for 11 of Buford’s 18 points in the period. He also spearheaded a 14-5 run that gave the Wolves some breathing room heading into the fourth quarter, using back-to-back alley-oop dunks to bring the Buford crowd to its feet, and keeping the momentum with his team.
“That first alley-oop that D’Marcus (Simonds) threw off the backboard, that was the one that set it off and really put us back in the game,” Lubin said. “Going into halftime, our coach was upset because we weren’t playing to our standards.
“Going into halftime, it was just a thing of playing harder, and when we play harder, get tend to get more shots in the paint.”
Lubin’s alley-oop dunks closed out the third quarter, giving Buford a 50-41 lead. The Wolves were then able to build a 17-point lead (63-46), their largest of the contest, early in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings fought back and managed to bring their deficit back within single digits, but the Wolves hit enough of their free throws down to stretch to prevent East Hall from cutting the gap below eight points.
Despite the loss, Dix said his team could learn from the competitive game against the high-powered Wolves.
“We stood toe-to-toe with them,” Dix said. “I like my group, they’re tough, hard-nosed. We are working on getting better daily, and this is the next step.”
A pair of lopsided runs characterized the first half.
After a nearly even first quarter, Buford put together a 12-2 run early in the second quarter to grab a 27-17 advantage.
Following a timeout, the Vikings turned the momentum and mounted a comeback, eventually taking a one-point lead following a four-point play late in the half.
After Buford knotted the game even at 32-32, a last-second field goal from Rod Hughey closed out the 17-5 run for the Vikings, and the first half.
“I thought our kids slept-walked a little bit there in the first (half), especially after we went up 10,” Whitehart said. “I thought it came back to bite us a little bit.”
Buford’s Simonds, a sophomore, finished with 18 points and a team-high 14 rebounds, while Taylor Mills contributed 17 points and Matt McMorris had 13.
East Hall finished with four players in double figures. Keevan Davenport led the Vikings with 17 points and a 14 rebounds. Jacquen Hopkins finished with 11 points and Elijah Lipscomb finished with 10 points.
East Hall returns to action on Saturday, when it faces West Hall on the opening day of Lanierland. Tipoff is set for 11:30 a.m. at Flowery Branch High School. Buford hosts Banks County Dec. 20 in region action.
BUFORD GIRLS 63, EAST HALL 27: The Lady Wolves opened their final season of Region 7-AAA competition with a commanding win over the Lady Vikings on Tuesday night.
Led by Corey Staples’ 16 points, Buford (4-1, 1-0) built a 17-point first-quarter lead and managed to extend its advantage to 36 points by the end of the third quarter, before cruising to the win in the fourth quarter.
Buford’s defense was the difference throughout the night. The Lady Wolves were able to force countless East Hall (1-4, 0-2) turnovers, creating fastbreak opportunities on the other end.
East Hall converted just five field goals all night against Buford’s stingy defense.
Tasha Bailey led East Hall with 10 points, while Natalie Winters finished with five. For Buford, 11 different players scored in the game, but Staples was the only Lady Wolves player in double figures