DAWSONVILLE — It’s no secret, the Buford Wolves were eagerly anticipating the drive back up to Dawson County.
This time they could enjoy their stay as well.
Buford shut out Dawson County in the second quarter and rolled to a 53-36 win Tuesday to snap the Tigers’ perfect start to the season and remain perfect themselves in Region 7-AAA play.
The Wolves also grabbed a measure of payback for Dawson County’s 42-35 upset win in the second round of the state tournament last season, and with a bonus: This time it was the No. 6-ranked Wolves (9-5, 6-0 Region 7-AAA) knocking off the top-ranked Tigers (14-1, 4-1).
“We got it circled for about a year,” Buford coach Allen Whitehart said of the matchup. “Since that night.”
That night, in the Class AA playoffs in 2012, the Dawson County defense was the story. Tuesday night, it was the Buford defense.
The Wolves entered the second quarter with an 11-10 lead thanks to guard Isaiah Williams’ layup in the final minute of the opening quarter. Neither team scored for the first 2 minutes, 35 seconds of the second period. Then Justice Bartley made a layup for Buford, Isaiah Williams came up with a steal and a fast break layup, and by the end of the half a defensive struggle had become a rout.
In all, spanning from Dawson County senior Tyler Dominy’s 3-pointer late in the first quarter to his pair of free throws early in the third, Buford held the Tigers scoreless for 11:14, all the while scoring 20 unanswered points.
“We just dug in our heels in the ground and took pride in defense,” Whitehart said. “And I was very proud of the way the kids stepped up without AJ (Davis) tonight.”
Both teams played without a key player, Dawson County without long-range threat Will Anglin (suspended after two technicals in previous game) and Buford without Tennessee recruit and 6-foot-8 senior forward Davis (recovering from an injury but expected back Friday).
In Davis’ place, two fellow seniors did what they’ve been doing most of the year. Forward Kyle Doyle — averaging a double-double this season — finished with a team-high 25 points and six rebounds, and Williams added 19 points.
Dominy also did what Buford expected of him, leading the team with 16 points before exiting with three minutes remaining after getting a fifth foul.
“The scouting told us that they go as Dominy goes,” Whitehart said. “He’s a heck of a player, and he’s their leader.”
Dominy scored eight of the team’s 10 points in the opening quarter as the hosts, playing in front of an overflowing crowd, raced out to a 5-0 lead and then a 7-4 advantage before Williams evened the score with a 3-pointer. A Doyle layup but Buford ahead for the first time at 9-7, but Dominy grabbed the lead back for the Tigers with his second 3-pointer to go ahead 10-9.
Williams responded with a layup with 25 seconds left in the quarter, and Buford led the rest of the way.
The Tigers made a small run in the third quarter, getting to within 32-19 on a Jonathan Sanderson layup, but Doyle responded with a jump shot in the lane and a made free throw after the foul to start an 8-0 run by Buford to finish the third.
While it was an important region game for both teams involved, the region is still far from decided with Dawson County traveling to North Hall (13-1, 5-0) on Friday at 8:30 p.m. and Buford visiting the Trojans next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Gainesville. The Wolves play region opponent West Hall at 8:30 p.m. Friday in Buford. Both Friday game follow both girls games, scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
BUFORD GIRLS 71, DAWSON COUNTY 57: Kaela Davis scored a career-high 43 points and the Lady Wolves asserted their dominance in Region 7-AAA with a win over another region title contender Tuesday in Dawsonville.
Playing without one of its best players in Kristina Nelson, Buford couldn’t completely shake the Lady Tigers until the final few minutes, when it rolled off a 7-0 run to turn a 62-52 lead into a comfortable margin.
Davis made five 3-pointers and went 12 of 15 from the free throw line.
“She shines when the pressure’s on and she wants the ball in her hands,” Buford coach Gene Durden said. “She showed that tonight, and she scored just about every way she could.”
MacKenzie Darrah added 14 points for Buford (10-3, 5-0) and Bree Horrocks finished with nine.
Sheyenne Seabolt led Dawson County with 15 points, Carly Gilreath added 12 and Ashley Parker 10.
A moment of silence was observed before the game for Buford middle school basketball player Jeremy Nelson — younger brother of Kristina Nelson — who died last Saturday.