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Buford depending on defense in state title game
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Buford vs. Vidalia

When: 3 p.m. today
Where: Macon Centreplex
Coaches: Buford, Gene Durden. Vidalia, Chunk Reid.
Records: Buford 28-4; Vidalia 31-0.
Key players: Buford, Andraya Carter (5-8, So.); Lacey Pass (5-6, Sr.); Shereese Williams (5-10, Jr.). Vidalia, Shekinah Henry (6-2, Sr.); Kourtnee Williams (5-6, Jr.); Shanice Mincey (5-7, Sr.).

At the beginning of this season, the Buford girls basketball team knew things were going to be different.

The Lady Wolves graduated eight seniors off last year’s state title team — the first championship team in the program’s history. And they knew that with so much experience gone, they’d have to rely on effort and heart more than talent.

“Last year we didn’t have to focus on little things as much because we had such incredible talent,” said sophomore shooting guard Andraya Carter prior to the start of this season. “We have to focus on the little things now and make sure that we’re playing great defense.”

And it’s been that exact thing, great defense, that has a different Buford team right back where last year’s was at this time of the season: Poised for a state title.

In the Lady Wolves’ 62-49 semifinal win against Laney, they held the Lady Wildcats, who came in averaging 73.9 points per game, to their second lowest point total of the season.

“We pride ourselves on playing great defense,” Buford coach Gene Durden said. “That’s controllable and something we’re always going to do.

“Hitting shots, not hitting shots, our defensive effort will always be top-notch. It’s what I’ve come to expect from this year’s team and I’m very proud of how they’ve met those expectations so far.”

Led by Carter and senior Alysha Rudnik, the only two starters remaining from last year’s team, the Lady Wolves are giving up 38 points per game this season.

It will take a defensive effort as good or better than what they’ve done in the past for the Lady Wolves get past undefeated Vidalia, which allows only 40 points per game.

In Vidalia’s two games against region foe Laney this season, the Lady Indians beat Laney by an average of 11.5 points.

In the state semifinal game against Buford’s region rival Greater Atlanta Christian, the Lady Indians (31-0) rallied from an 18-point deficit in the first half to beat the Lady Spartans — a team that beat Buford twice in the regular season — 75-68.

Vidalia’s 75 points were the most allowed by GAC this season.

The Lady Indians had four scorers in double figures led by Kourtnee Williams, who scored 20 of her 25 points in the second half against GAC, and Shekinah Henry (16 points).

Aside from needing to stop Vidalia’s scorers — the Lady Indians average 68 points per game to Buford’s 58 — the team’s height could prove problematic for the Lady Wolves.

Henry is six-feet, two-inches tall, and the Lady Indians’ other two centers stand no shorter than 6-0. While Buford has a player over 6-0 in freshman McKenzie Darrah (6-3), the Lady Wolves’ main contributors are no taller than 5-10.

If the way GAC’s 6-2 center Kristina Nelson took advantage of the height differential is any indication, it could be a long night for the Lady Wolves. Nelson scored 28 points for GAC in its region title win against Buford.

“The positive is that we’ve faced height before,” Durden said. “The negative is that we haven’t done a very good job of it.
“The state title game is different though and fortunately for us, we’ve been there before.”
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