Buford vs. Brooks County
When: 7 tonight
Where: Macon Centreplex
Records: Buford (24-7, No. 1 Region 6-AA); Brooks County (24-6, No. 1 Region 1-AA)
Coaches: Buford, Gene Durden. Brooks County, Lamar Thomas.
Key players: Buford, SG Kaela Davis (6-2, Jr.); PG Andraya Carter (5-8, Sr.); C Kristina Nelson (6-4, Jr.). Brooks County, G Jasmine Mapp (5-9, Sr.); F Ashley Clemons (5-10, Sr.).
Outlook: Brooks County coach Thomas likens today’s semifinal matchup to that classic underdog story.
“Playing Buford is a big deal for this program because they have won the last three titles. So, if you want to measure how good you are, then play the best,” he said. “Nobody is giving us a chance to win, so we are going in ready to play as hard as we can.
“David vs. Goliath.”
Buford has a pair of Division-I prospects in Carter (Tennessee) and Davis, along with some other highly regarded talents. Davis leads the team in scoring (18.5 points per game) and rebounding (6.3 per game), while Nelson is second in both at 10.1 points and six rebounds per game. Carter, two-time Class AA Player of the Year, has only played 15 games after sitting out the first half of the season to recover from an ACL injury, but is still the team’s leader on and off the court. Entering state tournament play, she had averaged 8.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals and two assists per game.
Brooks County is led by a Valdosta State commitment in Mapp, who is averaging 20 points per game. Clemons leads the team in the paint with 10 rebounds per game.
“Brooks is an athletic team that does a good job of playing pressure defense and causing an up-tempo pace,” Durden said. “They like to use their pressure on the full and half court to create turnovers and transition them into easy baskets. They shoot the ball very well from the outside, and do a very good job of posting up strong.”
The Lady Trojans have averaged 57 points per game as a team this season, while only allowing 43 per game while playing their high-pressure defense.
The defense has improved every step of the way in the state tournament, allowing 55 points in the opening round, 52 in a four-point win over Southwest, Macon, and just 37 in a blowout of Putnam County in the quarterfinals.
Brooks County has won seven consecutive games to reach this point and has not lost to a team below Class AAAA this season.
Like the Lady Trojans, the Lady Wolves have yet to lose to a Class AA team this season. The defense is a big reason for this, as Buford has allowed an average of just 37 points per game, while scoring 58 per contest.
The Lady Wolves have not allowed more than 45 points in the state tournament and, like Brooks County, have played just one close game so far, a 53-45 win over North Oconee in the second round.