BUFORD — D’Marcus Simonds delivered in a major way for Gainesville in a much-anticipated matchup on his former home floor at Buford on Friday. The junior guard scored eight of his 28 points in the first quarter, leading the Red Elephants to a 82-59 win against the Wolves.
After helping steer Buford to the Class AAA state championship game last season, Simonds dazzled for Gainesville, which moved to 9-0 on the season.
“D’Marcus has played in a lot of big games before, so we knew he’d be ready for this one,” Gainesville coach Benjie Wood said.
“It’s just basketball, we’re still all friends,” Simonds said of his former teammates at Buford.
Simonds set the tone with his first dunk in the first quarter, which gave Gainesville a 14-7 lead. He was ecstatic the second time he dunked the ball on the Wolves, early in the second quarter — drawing a foul and completing the 3-point play at the free throw line.
The icing on the cake for Simonds was a late fourth-quarter bounce that hit the court so hard, it went up in the air and fell in the basket for two more points.
“I guess I need to play the lottery tonight,” Simonds said.
Simonds also had a good touch on his mid-range shots. He hit a jump shot for Gainesville’s first points in the game one minute into the first quarter. The Mississippi State verbal commit also hit a 3-pointer midway through the opening quarter, giving Gainesville a 12-4 advantage.
With so much attention of Buford’s attention consumed by guarding Simonds, it created scoring opportunities for plenty other Red Elephants players. Luke Maddox had a 3-pointer in the first quarter for the Red Elephants, while guard Sam Carpenter also hit a shot from beyond the arc.
Jermaine Fleming also had a big night for Gainesville with 18 points, and helped the Red Elephants bounce back after Buford got as close as 46-41 in the third quarter. Wood said he knew it was only a matter of time before the Wolves made a run, even though they trailed by a large margin most of the night.
“I thought we played with a lot of poise tonight,” Wood said. “We knew Buford was going to start making a run eventually.”
Simonds had 18 points as the Red Elephants led 40-22 after one half.
Keyton Gibson kept Buford (4-3) close early with two jumpers and a dunk in the opening quarter.
Even though Buford started to chip away in the third quarter with back to back 3-pointers by Tre Hansborough and Taylor Mills, Gainesville started to pull away for good in the final two minutes of the third period.
Mills led Buford with 17 points and Hansbrough was second with 16 points.
Fleming added a basket for the Red Elephants inside, followed by Simonds’ tip-in off Maddox’s miss later in the third period.
In the final minute of the third quarter, Fleming and Carpenter both knocked down 3-point shots. Fleming also fed it inside to Maddox for a layup just before the end of the third quarter to go ahead 61-45.
“Jermaine is our glue guy on this team,” Simonds said.
Carpenter finished with 11 for the Red Elephants.
On Saturday, Gainesville visits Salem; Buford hosts Duluth.
BUFORD GIRLS 58, GAINESVILLE 46: Camille Anderson scored the Lady Wolves’ first 11 points and added an assist on a basket by Corey Staples in the first quarter. The N.C. State-bound Anderson hit a 3-pointer in all four quarters, finishing with a game-high 22 points.
Leading by three in the opening minute after Anderson’s basket and foul shot, she hit her next three shots behind the arc. Anderson’s third long-range shot of the opening quarter banked in off the glass.
After scoring 11 straight for Buford (6-2), Anderson dished the ball to Staples for an inside basket.
Shikiya Brown drew Gainesville (5-4) to within three of Buford late in the second quarter with her second straight 3-point shot.
Brown scored 15 of her 20 points on 3-pointers. Taylor Hawks scored 17 for the Lady Red Elephants.
Also in double figures scoring for Buford were Chandler Hall and Staples with 10 each.