Buford coach Eddie Martin summed up the biggest factor to the end of Friday night’s game against North Hall (13-5, 2-1 8-AAAA), which the Wolves (8-9, 3-0) won 58-55 in the Wolves Den.
“Close ballgames are won at the free throw line,” said Martin. “We all know that. We didn’t get there as many times as they did (in the fourth quarter), but we made as many count. It’s just one of those things — you’ve got to make free throws.”
In a game that saw 19 lead changes, the Trojans were 5 of 11 from the free throw line down the stretch. Buford sank 5 of its 6 chances from the stripe.
Overall, Buford was 9 of 12 and North Hall 7 of 16 from the charity stripe.
“That’s not going to get it done,” said Trojans coach Tyler Sanders. “You can’t do that and win big ballgames. We’ve got to get better and we’re going to do that.”
North Hall outscored Buford in each of the first three quarters of the game, taking a 46-42 lead into the final period.
Sophomore point guard Alex Jones scored 6 of his 8 points in the fourth with all three of his baskets gaining the lead back for Buford.
Brandon Iverson hit a 3-pointer and a layup to have a five-point quarter.
Tobi Obasanya scored 3 of his 10 in the final period, hitting 3 of 4 free throws, to help seal the game.
Obasanya’s last two free throws put Buford ahead for the final time, but Will Springer pushed the lead to three, sinking two from the stripe after a technical foul was called on North Hall with 0.4 seconds remaining in the contest.
Obasanya’s final foul shots came on what Sanders referred to as a “questionable call” as he was fouled after catching a pass then threw the ball up. The foul, which would have warranted a throw in from the sideline for the Wolves, was called a shooting foul and he stepped up for his team.
“We were up one and only had five team fouls right there in the last few seconds,” Sanders said. “I told the kids to foul and it was called that he was shooting. We’ll just leave that as it was a questionable call.”
The two came into the game tied at the top of the standings with a pair of region victories each.
At 3-0, the Wolves will sit atop the region alone. Springer and 6-foot-8 forward Sahil Patel led Buford with 12.
Patel netted all of his points in the first half, complete with a 10-point second quarter, before hitting foul trouble early in the fourth. Obasanya and Dawson Wehunt both chipped in 10 points.
Carson Heinen led all scorers with 16 points for North Hall, despite a 1-for-6 mark at the free throw line.
Evan Easton was 4-for-4 at the line and finished with 12.
“Buford had great crowd support, but North Hall brought a great crowd. It was a great environment for that kind of basketball game,” Martin said. “It’s a shame either team had to lose.”
Despite the tough loss, Sanders knows there’s a lot of basketball left to be played.
“It’s so early in the region,” Sanders said. “Our region (schedule) has a long way to go. There are nine good teams in it. It’s going to be a crazy finish to the region schedule and a wild region tournament.”
BUFORD GIRLS 74, NORTH HALL 31: Turnovers ate up the Lady Trojans (10-8, 2-1 8-AAAA) early against the Lady Wolves’ (14-3, 3-0) full-court press and half-court trap.
Buford forced 10 first-half turnovers when pressing.
The Lady Wolves took a 41-22 lead at the break and didn’t let up in the second half, holding North Hall to two points in the final period of play.
Tory Ozment and Marissa Bruce led Buford with 13 points, while Audrey Weiner connected on a pair of 3-pointers on her way to 12 points.
Taylor Anne Kelley hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter to get to 11 points in the period. She finished with 13 after scoring the only points for North Hall in the fourth.
North Hall will play at Jefferson today in a non-region contest with a 6 p.m. tip off for the girls. The next region contest will be at White County Tuesday. That game will also tip at 6 p.m.
Buford faces a tough home matchup against Tift County today with the girls tipping at 4 p.m. The Wolves will travel to Chestatee Tuesday with a 6 p.m. tip.