NORCROSS – It wasn’t pretty, but the second-ranked Buford girls still pulled out a win.
It wasn’t the Lady Wolves best performance as a whole, but thanks to a ‘fearless’ individual performance in the fourth quarter by senior Alysha Rudnik, they still pulled out a 50-43 win against seventh-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian on Tuesday night in Norcross.
With the win, the Lady Wolves stayed atop the Region 6-AA standings tied with Lovett while Greater Atlanta Christian slipped to second.
"We needed this test," Buford (11-0, 4-0) coach Gene Durden said. "In my 22 years (coaching), I’ve never had a situation where I don’t know how good we are."
Using a full-court, trapping press, Buford accumulated 14 steals and forced 21 GAC turnovers in the game.
None, however, were more important that the three forced turnovers – two steals by Rudnik – at the start of the fourth quarter.
With the Lady Wolves down by two, Rudnik drove to the basket for a layup, tying the score at 40. GAC (10-3, -31 Region 6-AA) turned it over in its next three possessions and the Lady Wolves capitalized, scoring on a layup by Ayana Ward and a turnaround jumper by freshman McKenzie Darrah to take a four-point lead.
Buford went on to score four more unanswered, increasing its lead to eight, thanks to free throws by Andraya Carter and another layup by Rudnik.
It didn’t hurt that in the midst of the Lady Wolves’ 10-0 game-clinching win, they were outrebounding the Lady Spartans 15-6 after being outrebounded 14-12 in the first half.
"We need to learn to play consistently," Durden said. "We haven’t been in a grind with anybody and had we been, we’d have understood by now how consistency is."
Rudnik scored only four points in the fourth quarter, but they were big baskets for a young Buford team that not only returned just two key players – including Rudnik – from last year’s state title team, but also isn’t used to competition into the fourth quarter.
In the 10 games prior to Tuesday night, the Lady Wolves won by an average of 27 points.
"(Alysha) Rudnik is a winner," Durden said. "She’s fearless and she is a competitor.
"Her leadership, aggressiveness and competitiveness are key to our team and were to this game."
"GAC’s always been a tough team," Rudnik said. "We knew we had to compete and they did play really well.
"I just wanted to step up and be a leader, but we had other people step up too. Andraya was great, she was in the whole game and kept her composure and that was big for us."
Carter finished the night with 13 points and also added four rebounds. Along with her 13 points, Rudnik also posted seven rebounds and five steals.
Lacey Pass, Ward and Joyclyn Kinsey each added six points for the Lady Wolves.
The Lady Spartans were led by freshman center Kristina Nelson with 13 points, five rebounds and three blocks. Clarke Boards added 11 points for GAC.
Buford returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday when it plays host to Decatur.
GREATER ATLANTA CHRISTIAN BOYS 73, BUFORD 44: The Trojans outscored Buford 21-8 in the first quarter and held a 20-point lead after three quarters en route to a win Tuesday night at Greater Atlanta Christian in Norcross.
Malcolm Brogdon led the way for Greater Atlanta Christian (12-1, 4-0 Region 6-AA) with 24 points. Elliott Long added 11.
Sophomores T.J. Shipes and Payton Wehunt led Buford (5-6, 3-1) with nine and eight points respectively in the Wolves first region loss.
Buford returns to action at 8:30 p.m. Friday when it plays host to Decatur.