BUFORD — All season, the hallmark of the Buford Lady Wolves has been their defense — specifically, non-stop, high-pressure, full-court defense.
With it, they ran undefeated through Region 6-AA, allowing just over 30 points per game in region play.
And with it, they defeated Coosa 63-48 in the second round of the Class AA state playoffs Tuesday, forcing 23 turnovers and holding the Lady Eagles (22-10) to less than 30 percent shooting in the first half.
“What we try to do is wear people down,” Buford coach Gene Durden said, “and I thought we did that tonight. I thought (the pressure) took some of their shooters away. We didn’t do a good job on (Ieshia Alexander), and I was disappointed in that, but with everybody else, I thought we did a good job.”
The top-ranked Lady Wolves (29-1) have won 28 in a row and now advance to the quarterfinals for the third straight year. They’ll face the Rabun County/Manchester winner Friday at The Forum in Rome.
Coosa kept pace early with Buford early. The Lady Eagles came out intent on matching the Lady Wolves’ full-court pressure with a physical man-to-man defense.
The results were sloppy in the opening minutes. The teams combined for 16 first-quarter turnovers, and Coosa held a 5-4 lead before the Lady Wolves scored eight straight to take control.
Freshman point guard Andraya Carter led the way early for Buford. Unfazed by Coosa’s harassing defenders, Carter scored six points, dished five assists and had four steals in the opening quarter. She set up a buzzer-beating 3-pointer with a crossover dribble to give herself some space, then zipped a pass to Katie Lynn, open in the corner for the trey.
“Our kids didn’t let their emotions control them,” Durden said. “And I think that was a big factor, because (Coosa was) definitely playing physical.”
Carter finished the game with 17 points, seven assists, seven steals and six rebounds.
If the first quarter belonged to Carter, the second was Blanche Alverson’s. The 6-foot-3 Auburn signee gave the Lady Wolves some cushion, scoring nine points and grabbing three rebounds in the second quarter. She finished with 19 points and six rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting. Senior post Jocelyn Danley shared the team lead in points, also scoring 19 and grabbing seven rebounds.
Meanwhile, Coosa’s leading scorer was struggling. Alexander rallied in the second half to frustrate Durden and score a game-high 20 points, but she was 1-for-11 from the field in the first half as Buford claimed a 37-21 halftime lead. She finished 6-for-19 from the field and led Coosa with seven rebounds and six steals.
Buford led by as many as 20 in the third quarter and seemed ready to put the game away, but the Lady Eagles kept it competitive, rattling off six straight near the end of the quarter.
The Buford lead was trimmed to 12 with less than three minutes remaining before Carter took over again. First it was a steal and a baseline-to-baseline streak for a layup. On the ensuing Coosa possession she came up with a loose ball, dribbled quickly down the floor and found Alverson for a short jumper, giving Buford a 16-point advantage and squashing any remaining hopes for the Lady Eagles.
Durden wasn’t thrilled with his team’s 17 turnovers or lackluster shooting performance in the second half, “but right now, to get a double-digit win the state tournament, I can’t complain,” he said.