DALTON — The Buford girls basketball team had one objective in their state quarterfinal game Friday night: Beat them with athleticism.
The Lady Wolves (27-4) jumped higher, outrebounding Rabun County 41-29; pressured harder, causing 23 turnovers and held the Lady Wildcats to just one point in the third quarter en route to a 48-28 win at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center in Dalton.
“We switched to a fullcourt man-to-man (defense) in the second half and I thought we really controlled the game from then on,” Buford coach Gene Durden said.
“We knew (Rabun County) liked to press so we decided to press them back and it really gave us an advantage because it’s what we do.”
With the win, second-ranked Buford advances to the state semifinals for the second year in a row. The Lady Wolves will play the winner of tonight’s Thomasville/Laney matchup at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Macon Centreplex.
“We feel like we’ve built a tradition that when we enter the state playoffs, we have a chance to play for it all,” Durden said. “We’re still a young team and know we still have room to improve, so we’re not satisfied with just getting there.”
Neither Rabun County (27-2), which averaged better than 71 points per game this season, nor Buford shot the ball particularly well for the game.
In fact, when all was said and done, the Lady Wildcats finished having shot just 18 percent from the field while Buford shot just 29 percent.
The difference was defense – Buford held Region 8-AA Player of Year Marina DeFoor scoreless - and Lady Wolves senior Lacey Pass.
Pass finished with a game-high 14 points and six rebounds and was the offensive catalyst with eight points in the Lady Wolves’ third quarter, which was their highest-scoring quarter of the game with 14 points.
“It was big for Lacey (Pass) to step up and hit shots the way she did,” Durden said. “I think it really took (Rabun County’s) heart.”
As did a late first half 9-2 run, capped by a Pass 3-pointer, that gave Buford a 22-8 lead.
The Lady Wolves came out in the second half with a renewed purpose on defense – they caused turnovers on the Lady Wildcats first four possessions – and with Pass on fire.
She hit for eight straight points to cap a 10-1 run at the beginning of the third quarter that gave her team a 20-point lead.
After back-to-back Pass 3-pointers made it 34-16, Alysha Rudnik rebounded a Rabun County miss – the Lady Wildcats didn’t have a field goal in the third quarter and only had four in the second half – threw an outlet pass to Pass who, without dribbling, layed it up to put Buford ahead 36-16.
“This was a great team effort tonight,” Durden said. “We played great team defense and I’m extremely proud of the girls’ effort.”
Rudnik and Andraya Carter each added eight points and four rebounds for Buford and Sheresse Williams added seven points and nine rebounds.
Rabun County was led in scoring by Brianna Beck’s eight points and Logan Turner with six. The Lady Wildcats season is now complete.