The Blitz: Rockdale at Flowery Branch
BUFORD — With a team as loaded with talented athletes like the Buford girls have, playing winning basketball can sometimes be as simple as pass, catch and shoot; but even more so when the other team only has nine players on its entire roster.
“That was the whole game plan,” said Buford’s Andraya Carter, referring to Tuesday’s second round playoff game against Heard County. “We just wanted to run them up and down the court and try and wear them down.”
And wear team down they did.
The Lady Wolves capitalized on 27 turnovers (11 in the third quarter) to win 72-39 and qualify for the state quarterfinals for the third consecutive season. With the win, Buford (26-3) will face Rabun County (27-3) at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center in Dalton.
“Now that it’s tourney time, you just want to get to the next round,” Buford coach Gene Durden said.
Leading 38-23 at halftime, the Lady Wolves went on a full-court press and outscored Heard County 24-4 in the third quarter.
Buford, which turned the ball over 12 times in the first half, found scoring easy in the third quarter, thanks to the mismatches created by Carter, who led the team with 16 points, 10 rebounds and four steals, and Kaela Davis, who scored a game-high 19 points.
Carter and Davis both slipped past the Heard County defense in the opening minute of the third quarter, creating easy layups. After those easy scoring plays, Maya Dillard, who finished with seven assists, found Davis open again for a layup.
Even though Durden says that the game plan was just the same as the first half, the execution couldn’t have unfolded any differently.
“It was night-and-day different in the second half,” Durden said. “We did a much better job of executing our game plan in the second half and limiting Heard County to only one shot.”
And Carter never stopped running up and down the floor. Leading by 19 midway through the third period, Carter, a junior, battled for the rebound after her own missed shot and went back up for the score. Then shortly after, she sprinted down court as a Lady Brave went up for what appeared to be an uncontested layup and batted the ball away.
In the first quarter, the Lady Wolves started out with the same tempo and built their biggest lead of the first half at 21-7 when Davis went in for a layup. Also in the opening period, Davis, Carter and Constance Harrison all drained a 3-pointer.
Heard County managed to battle back in the second quarter as Jemeka Parks hit three 3-pointers and finished the game with 12 points. La’Rice Walker led the Lady Braves (15-12) with 14 points.
With the win, Buford is slated to face Rabun County for the third consecutive season in the playoffs. Last year, Buford won a defensive battle 48-28 over the Lady Wildcats in Dalton. Now, the Lady Wolves have two days to prepare for the last win needed to make it back to Macon for the state semifinals and a run at a third consecutive state title in Class AA.
“I don’t think there’s much we need to change between now and then, we just need to clean some things up,” Carter said.