In a potential precursor to the Region 7-AAA championship game, the Buford girls’ basketball team showed the rest of the region what to expect in next week’s region tournament.
The Lady Wolves used a dominant defensive effort and forced 23 turnovers to blow past the currently second-seeded North Hall Lady Trojans 56-29 on Friday night in Gainesville.
With the win, Buford (23-2, 14-0) clinched an undefeated region record, but coach Gene Durden knows none of the wins mean anything unless the Lady Wolves show up to play in the region tournament.
A slip up in Wednesday’s tournament opener against eighth-seeded East Hall, and the Lady Wolves’ season would be over, and the big wins and dominant play would be all for nothing.
“Now it’s the real season,” Durden said. “It doesn’t matter what you did in the regular season. Now it’s all about region. We slip up and don’t play well (Wednesday), we go home.
“We’ve got to start trying to play our best basketball of the year.”
North Hall (16-8, 8-5) is now tied with Banks County for the No. 2 seed for the region tournament. The Lady Trojans can secure the seed with a win and a Lady Leopards loss today. If both teams finish today with the same outcome, a coin toss will determine the No. 2 seed, which comes with a home game in the first round of the region tournament.
“We’re just trying to play our best basketball at the end,” North Hall coach Kristi House said.
“This week we’ve done that so far; we had a hiccup tonight. We know we need to get one (win) this weekend. We need to get one in order to keep our chances going and somehow get a home playoff game in the region tournament.”
Despite the 27-point loss to Buford, House said her young team — no seniors are in the Lady Trojans’ starting lineup — has the confidence it needs heading into tonight’s regular season finale against West Hall and then moving into next week’s tournament.
“We came out a little flat and it was hard for us to catch up,” House said. “I don’t know if the energy just wasn’t there, but Buford had a lot to do with that. They play really good team defense.”
Buford opened Friday’s game with a suffocating defensive pressure that saw North Hall commit seven turnovers in the opening four minutes of the game and allowed the Lady Wolves to grab a 10-2 advantage.
The early turnover struggles forced House to burn three timeouts in the opening quarter, but it didn’t slow down the Lady Wolves, who quickly extended their advantage to 16-4 at the end of the quarter.
“We thought it was huge, defensively coming out and getting those turnovers which led to our kids’ baskets,” Durden said. “We try to play fast and they did a great job.”
North Hall’s deficit remained at 12 points at halftime and was just 13 at the end of the third quarter. The full-court pressure from Buford proved to be too much and wore out the Lady Trojans.
That led to the Lady Wolves outscoring the Lady Trojans 18-4 in the final quarter.
Buford’s Camille Anderson led all scorers with 12 points, while Chandler Hall finished with 10 points and Bree Horrocks contributed with eight. The Lady Wolves played without junior Corey Staples, one of the team’s regular starters who was sidelined with a knee injury.
Durden said he is hopeful Staples can return for the region tournament and state playoffs.
North Hall failed to have a player score in double figures. Four Lady Trojans — Taylor Anne Kelley, Kensi Gillespie, Sydney Cleveland and Katie Sayres — each finished with six points.
BUFORD BOYS 70, NORTH HALL 37: The Wolves finished off a perfect 14-0 record in region play on Friday night.
Twelve Wolves scored in the win, with D’Marcus Simonds scoring a game-high 21 points to lead Buford (20-5, 14-0 Region 7-AAA). Matt McMorris finished with 10, Taylor Mills with nine and Montgomery VanGorder with eight.
Carson Heinen and Brock Wingo each scored nine points to lead North Hall (5-18, 3-10).
Buford opened a 23-14 lead at the end of the first quarter, before building a 35-18 lead at the half. The Wolves scored 24 points in the third quarter and 11 in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Trojans.
The Wolves will act as the No. 1 seed in next week’s Region 7-AAA tournament, hosting Fannin County Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.