A double-digit comeback wasn’t enough for the East Hall Vikings to get past region power Buford on Friday night.
Trailing by 11 points entering the fourth quarter, the Vikings rallied behind junior Kyvon Davenport before the Wolves pulled away to secure an 81-75 win in Gainesville.
“We have been plagued by bad starts all year,” East Hall coach Joe Dix said. “It seems like we always get behind the eight-ball. Sometimes we are able to rebound and it is a good thing, but tonight we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Davenport carried East Hall back into the game in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 straight points for the Vikings to bring them within five, 69-64, with 2:17 remaining.
“I knew we were in for a dogfight,” Buford coach Allen Whitehart said. “You can look at my scouting report and know we were in for a dogfight, regardless.”
The Vikings (8-5, 5-2 Region 7-AAA) eventually reduced their deficit to two, 74-72, behind three more baskets from Davenport, before five turnovers on five straight possessions allowed Buford to close the door and secure the win.
“Anytime you (turn the ball over) against good teams, you’re going to lose,” Dix said. “That’s what happened.”
Sophomore D’Marcus Simonds scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, including six points from the free throw line, to keep the Wolves (12-5, 8-0) in front. Isaac Nauta and Matt McMorris each added three-point plays to help carry the Wolves to the win.
“When they started closing back in, it was all about trying to slow the game down and trying to execute,” Simonds said. “And we weren’t doing that and they were getting a lot of easy buckets, a lot of steals. So we stepped it up.”
Fueled by his fourth-quarter performance, Davenport led all scorers with a game-high 36 points — a career high — and 18 rebounds. He scored 18 in the final quarter.
“(Davenport) has really played well all year and tonight was his best game of his career,” Dix said. “He did a great job at finishing around the rim. He kept after it.”
Simonds led Buford with 31 points while also hauling in seven rebounds. Nauta finished with 18 points for the Wolves after seeing more playing time than normal following Whitehart’s decision to bench senior Rakim Lubin.
Lubin was sent to the locker room after being charged with a technical foul in the first quarter following a slam dunk near the East Hall bench.
The decision to take Lubin out of the game and force him to sit in street clothes away from the team in the second half was strictly to teach the University of Connecticut commit a lesson, according to Whitehart.
“Those are the kind of things we have to take care of now,” Whitehart said. “We can’t run into technical fouls late in the season. So I made up my mind — if it was going to cost us, it was going to cost us in the regular season, not the playoffs.”
Luckily for the Wolves, the decision to pull Lubin from the game didn’t hurt them, largely because of the presence provided by Nauta down low and Simonds’ ability to take over the game in the second half.
Nauta, a five-star prospect and all-state tight end for the Buford football team, hauled in a team-high 14 rebounds to go along with his 17 points, six that came in the third quarter to help Buford build a double-digit lead.
“I had to step up,” Nauta said. “I got in a little bit of foul trouble early, but I came out in the second half and played as hard as I could.”
Buford opened the game on an 11-2 run, before extending the lead to 15 later in the first quarter. Buford’s lead got to as little as five, 37-32, in the second quarter before the Wolves managed to hold an eight-point lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, Simonds and Nauta fueled the Wolves back in front by double digits, scoring 11 of Buford’s first 13 points in the quarter to make the score 55-43.
BUFORD GIRLS 51, EAST HALL 30: Despite being limited to just one fourth-quarter field goal, the Lady Wolves improved to 8-0 in Region 7-AAA play on Friday night in Gainesville.
Led by Camille Anderson’s team-high 13 points, the Lady Wolves built a sizeable lead in the first quarter and coasted to their 16th overall win this season.
Despite being held without a basket in the first quarter, East Hall’s Jenny Edwards scored a game-high 15 points, at times keeping the Lady Vikings’ offense moving down the court against the full-court press of Buford.
Buford raced out to a 12-0 lead, before East Hall Chelsea Dale drained a 3-pointer with 2:09 to play to get the Lady Vikings onto the scoreboard. Buford led 18-5 at the end of the first quarter before extending its lead to as many as 16 in the second quarter.
The Lady Wolves outscored the Lady Vikings 17-3 in the third quarter, building a 27-point advantage, 49-22, heading into the final quarter, which featured nearly all bench players running the floor for the Lady Wolves.