Paislee Lee’s last-ditch 3-pointer bounced off the rim, and Gainesville’s girls basketball team fell to Buford, 33-31, in the championship game of the Big Red Shootout Saturday night at Gainesville High School.
“We have nothing to hold our heads down about,” Gainesville coach Brenda Gilmore said. “We had a good chance to win. We got a good look at the three at the end. If it goes down, we win.”
In a game where both teams struggled to score points, Buford (10-1) didn’t take its first lead until the 4:37 mark of the fourth quarter, when Camille Anderson converted a layup to end a 9-0 Buford run, erasing the Lady Wolves’ seven-point deficit.
Gainesville (9-2) used a pair of free throws from Kabree Randolph to knot the game at 31-31 with 1:08 remaining, but Buford had a chance to regain the lead the following possession when Anderson went to the line with a one-and-one.
Anderson missed the front-end and Gainesville took over possession of the ball, but was called for an offensive foul with 10.7 seconds remaining.
Another Lady Red Elephants’ foul just three seconds later gave Anderson another chance at the free throw line. This time, the junior sank both free throws to give Buford a 33-31 advantage.
“I knew my team was counting on me,” Anderson said. “I had missed the first ones; I just had to redeem myself.”
Anderson finished with a game-high 12 points and was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Buford’s Bree Horrocks was held to just four points, while Corey Staples was limited to two points. Ashley Kroeger tallied eight points for the Lady Wolves, while Chandler Hall finished with six points.
The Lady Red Elephants were able to use their depth to their advantage at times, rotating five fresh players into the game at various points. That depth allowed nine players to score on the night.
Randolph finished with a team-best six points, while Tamia Rucker, Taylor Hawks and Tanai Watson each finished with five points.
Part of the inability to find an offensive rhythm throughout the game stemmed from both teams playing in their third game in as many days, a rarity for high school basketball teams.
“It was a situation where it was three games in three days, and also just pressure of playing in a tournament,” Buford coach Gene Durden said. “We have some younger, inexperienced kids. And we had some that had to step up. This makes both teams better.”
Despite the loss, Gilmore said she was proud of her team, but a few late mistakes by the Lady Red Elephants were the ultimate difference.
“We just made a few key mistakes,” Gilmore said. “At the last second, we put them on the free throw line.”
Along with struggling on the offensive end, both teams had to overcome the emotions of what was a loosely called game from the officiating standpoint. Countless times, both coaches were seen showing their disapproval of the calls made by the officiating crew.
“I thought a few times, I questioned a few calls,” Gilmore said. “That is how (Buford) plays and if you play that style, (the referees) are not going to call it. We just have to adjust to how the officials are calling it and just play.”
A more experienced Buford seemed to handle the emotions of the game, giving the Lady Wolves a bit of an advantage late in the game.
“I think both teams felt the pressure like that,” Durden said. “That made it a little bit of an ugly game. Both teams played physical, both played hard. You have to understand, Gainesville just won Lanierland, and to win on their home floor, that is a great accomplishment.”
Gainesville built a slim 9-5 lead after a defensive first quarter, which featured Buford playing a full-court press and Gainesville bringing pressure to the Lady Wolves all the way up the floor.
The second quarter was just as competitive. Gainesville remained in the lead throughout the quarter, but couldn’t put any distance between itself and Buford.
The Lady Wolves’ largest deficit of the quarter was five, 17-12, but they quickly recovered with a pair of free throws from Hall.
Gainesville led 17-14 at halftime, after Anderson banked in a half-court short for Buford that got waved off because she didn’t get it off before the buzzer sounded.
In the third quarter, the Lady Red Elephants managed to slowly build some distance from the Lady Wolves. They outscored Buford 12-8 across the first six minutes of the second half, building a 29-22 lead.
But, Buford answered with an Anderson basket on the following possession to bring the score to 29-24 at the end of the quarter.
The fatigue seemed to settle in for both teams in the fourth quarter.
Buford’ first basket of the quarter didn’t come until the 4:37 mark, while Gainesville was held to just two points — Randolph’s free throws with 1:08 left — in the quarter.