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Davis: When the final buzzers sound
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At the end of it all some players collapse, encompassed by overwhelming feelings of joy and exhaustion.

It’s a moment of disbelief followed by a need to get up and hug everyone they know and some they don’t — a smile never leaving their faces.

At the end of it all, others collapse for a different reason.

It’s a moment of disbelief followed by a need to be hugged by everyone they know and some they don’t.

An exercise in contrasting emotions performed by teams at the end of each game played at the state tournament in Macon, including two of our own.

For the Gainesville boys, a dream season came to an end sooner than they would have liked.

For the Buford girls, the ending was the fairy tale they knew it would be.

As a sports writer, bias is a no-no. But truth be told I was pulling for one more Blake Sims’ 3-pointer that would send the game
against Westover into overtime. I was pulling for seniors George Manomano and Juwon Jeffries, D.J. Allen, Brock Boleman, D.J. McDuffie and Nick Johnson.

I was pulling for Big Red.

Theirs was a season of nonexpectations, and those are the best kind.

Gainesville started the season 0-3 and then spent time acclimating to the late arrival of the football players.

Even after a few games with those from the gridiron, the Red Elephants were still only 5-7.

That seventh loss was the turning point, however, and here’s why.

Gainesville was beaten at Flowery Branch on a last-second 3-pointer by the Falcons’ Rashad Tate.

Upon the team’s arrival back at the Gainesville gym, the players went to the locker room to gather their things and coach Todd Cottrell to his office to do the same.

As he exited his office, thinking all his players were gone, Cottrell was approached by junior Chris West and asked to come into the locker room.

There Cottrell found a group of his players who had stuck around to tell him that they were done losing, that they wanted to make the march to Macon.

And so began their journey to a two-loss subregion record, a region championship and a trip to Macon.

The season ended without the state title they talked about winning on the night of Jan. 13 after the Flowery Branch game, but also without regret.

“It was a great experience. A once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something few people get to do,” said Jeffries after the game against Westover. “As seniors we wanted to put Gainesville basketball back on the map and I think we did that. I was hoping for
a better ending, though.”

These Red Elephants put the program back on a pedestal, put it back in the limelight, brought back the excellence that was the tradition.

These Red Elephants brought back expectation.

The Buford girls’ season was just the opposite of Gainesville’s.

From early on the Lady Wolves wreaked havoc. At times causing the opposition to have more turnovers than it did points.

The lone blemish for Buford on the season was a double-overtime, four-point loss to — ahem — Class AAAAA Marist.

The Lady Wolves simply dismantled each opponent, including once nationally-ranked Wesleyan, and continued to do so in the state playoffs.

It seemed, however, the Lady Wolves’ had met their match in Model, at least on paper. The Lady Blue Devils were undefeated on the season and had won each game with a tenacious brand of in-your-face defensive pressure, allowing only 35 points per game.

They beat their semifinal opponent by double digits, as did Buford: It was going to be a showdown.

And then it wasn’t, as Buford played a shock-and-awe style of defense that had that exact effect on Model. When the Lady Blue Devils called their first timeout — one of many in the game — there wasn’t a mouth not agape on their bench on in their section of fans.

Buford set out to win a state title and did so in resounding fashion, on the way making a case for consideration as one of the best high school girls basketball teams this state has ever seen.

When all was said and done the tears flowed for the Buford girls just like they did the Gainesville boys, but for different reasons.

And even though the outcomes weren’t the same, both teams played their hearts out and kept us cheering until the final buzzers sounded.
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