BUFORD — It was a battle of two top-ranked teams and defending state champions, but the final score didn’t indicate that.
Led by Andraya Carter and Kaela Davis, Buford’s Lady Wolves of Class AA handled Class AAA’s Columbia, 65-47 on Friday night. The Lady Wolves, ranked No. 17 in the USA Today Super 25 rankings, moved to 5-0 on the season, while the Lady Eagles dropped to 6-2.
“We didn’t know much about this team coming in, but we have to treat everyone like they can play,” said Davis, who led all scorers with 22 points. “If you can come out here and play with good teams, that means you can only improve and get better, so hopefully by the time February and March shows up, we’ll be at our peak and get it done.”
Davis, a sophomore verbally committed to Tennessee, was 4-for-8 from the 3-point line, 4-for-4 on free throws and added seven rebounds and three assists. Carter chipped in 17 points and five rebounds, and hounded the Lady Eagles on defense — a big reason Columbia turned the ball over 32 times in the game.
“I didn’t go in (to the game) with any expectations,” said Carter, a junior also committed to Tennessee. “I’m just happy we played our game, and to win by 18 against a team that good means a lot to us. They’re a good team and they played hard.”
The Lady Wolves opened the game on a 10-2 run and never let off the gas. Karly Fullem’s three-point play in the final seconds of the first quarter put Buford up 22-12, and the Lady Wolves led by double digits the rest of the way.
Buford padded its lead in the first half by going 12-for-12 from the free throw line — the Lady Eagles were 2 of 4 — to lead 36-22 at halftime.
“No doubt (free throw shooting) helped us build a lead and gave us some confidence,” Lady Wolves coach Gene Durden said. “I was real pleased with that, especially since we were only 4-for-17 from the free throw line the other night.”
A constant throughout the game was Buford’s defense, which prevented Columbia from ever finding an offensive rhythm. Hardly any shot went uncontested, and the Lady Wolves’ rebounding limited Columbia’s second-chance opportunities.
“That was our big thing was playing defense,” Davis said. “We knew if we focused on the defensive end, the offense would come with it.”
Davis’ fourth 3-pointer of the game with 5:17 left in the game pushed the Buford lead to 56-36 — the Lady Wolves’ largest lead of the game.
Durden felt Buford should have pushed the lead ever further.
“We had two or three runs where we were up 16 and 18 and should have pushed it to 25,” he said. “We were ready to run them out of the gym and make the game out of control. But we’ve got a lot to learn, and this was our first real test. It was a good test and a good starting point, and if we can build from here, we’ll be fine.”
As for Columbia, coach Chantay Frost said the team isn’t phased by the loss, and will grow as a team for playing Buford.
“Move forward, that’s all we can do,” she said. “It’s still early in the season and that was definitely not the best we can play. As long as we can get better, we’ll be OK.
“And I liked the effort.”
Buford’s Shereese Williams had 10 points and seven rebounds — five offensive — and was 4-for-4 from the charity stripe.
Columbia was led by Victoria Gonzales’ 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Shamyiah Smith had 11 points and seven steals, and Zuri Frost scored 10 points and finished with a team-high four assists.
For the game, Buford was 21-of-27 from the free throw line, while the Lady Eagles only reached the line 12 times, making three attempts.