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Buford girls roll past Heritage in first round of Class AAAA playoffs
Lady Wolves (26-3) will face Westover in second round at home on Feb. 19
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Buford’s Corey Staples guards Heritage’s Nicole Fine in the opening round of the Class AAAA state playoffs on Tuesday at Buford High. - photo by Jared Putnam

With his team missing each of its opening eight field goal attempts, Buford Lady Wolves coach Gene Durden yanked his starters and hoped the move would send a message.

The Lady Wolves read him loud and clear.

Buford (26-3) routed Heritage High School 70-27 on Tuesday night in the Lady Wolves’ gym to secure a first-round win in the Class AAAA state playoffs and earn a second-round home berth on Friday evening against Westover.

Substitute Chandler Hall scored 15 of her season-high 19 points in the second and third quarters as Buford built and maintained a dominant lead over the outmatched Generals (13-12), who travelled over two hours from Ringgold to play.

“This time of year, we’ve got to be able to play 32 minutes,” said Durden, in his office after the game. “In the state tournaments, you don’t get do-overs. I didn’t think we played with the sense of urgency as we should have. We took it for granted.”

It took a mid-range jumpshot on the 2:46 mark from N.C. State commit Camille Anderson to spark the Lady Wolves, who ended the quarter on a 16-2 run powered by Hall and Anderson (12 points).

Buford jumped out to a 24-point halftime lead, Katy Bisges scored three of her team’s six 3-pointers, and four players scored in double digits to keep the Lady Wolves 12-1 on home court.

Westover, the No. 3 seed of Region 1-AAAA, defeated Region 2-AAAA No. 2 seed Perry High 37-30 on Tuesday night to earn the right to travel to Buford on Friday evening.

As of press time, the time was not yet announced.

“When we started the game, Coach Durden told us that the key was movement,” said Hall. “We didn’t start out very well, we weren’t moving in the press, so he had to sit us down, so we could get the game moving.”

Using its trademark full-court press to full effect, Buford forced four steals before halftime. The Lady Wolves harried Heritage’s ball carriers, giving Hall an easy route to the basket with defenders Bisges (11 points) and Corey Staples (10 points) leading the charge.

The junior shooting guard opened up a 6-0 run on her own in the space of 1:20 before Anderson and Bisges hit consecutive treys to push an early lead to 20 with more than 5 minutes left to play in the half.

“That’s what we do, we put pressure on you offensively and defensively,” said Durden. “The problem is that we didn’t convert as much as I wanted to, and that doesn’t do you a lot of good.”

It was more than enough against Heritage High, which came into the matchup as the No. 4 seed out of 7-AAAA.

The Generals were held to just five first-half field goals before Bisges hit back-to-back treys in the middle of the third that would give Buford a 31-point lead with more than 10 minutes of game time left to play. Durden’s second-string corps held Heritage to just one basket in the entire fourth quarter to secure a win that will put Buford back in contention for a state title. The Lady Wolves were runners-up in 2013-14 in Class AAA.

Buford has yet to lose a game in 2015, and is undefeated heading back to a non-region loss on Dec. 29 to Southeast Raleigh.

Nicole Fire led the Generals with seven points, while Sydney Smith chipped in six.

With Anderson resting for the majority of the night on the bench, Hall said she was happy with her own output in the blowout as an impact substitute.

And she said she’ll be ready, if and when that opportunity comes again this postseason.

“I’m always looking for an opportunity to support my team, whether it’s rebounds or shots,” she said, smiling. “Scoring’s never boring.”

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