0118DurdenAUDListen to Buford coach Gene Durden talk about tonight's matchup with Wesleyan.
Whether it be full-court press on defense, seven defenders to try to disrupt the flow of the offense or loud noise with whistles and constant instruction, it’s all a test to see how focused his team really is.
"I want to make sure our team can stay calm under pressure," Durden said.
The reasoning behind all the mayhem on the court is preparation for the Lady Wolves’ visit to Class AA’s top-ranked Wesleyan (15-2) tonight in Norcross.
In recent years, this has been a one-sided rivalry with Wesleyan winning all three games last season including the state quarterfinals. Wesleyan is currently on a 12-game winning streak including wins against Class AAAA and AAAAA opponents.
Buford hopes that both of those streaks are about to come to an end.
"The girls are all excited about this game," Durden said. "We want to try to take it to the next level."
With two top-five rivals within 20 miles of each other, it shouldn’t take any extra incentive to get fans from both sides excited about this one.
But just in case either side’s fans need something to get jazzed about with this one, they can rely on the fact that two of the state’s premier post players are going head-to-head tonight.
Buford is led by 6-foot-3 junior Blanche Alverson, who is in her first season at the school after moving in from Alabama.
Wesleyan is just as strong in the middle with its own 6-3 post, Anne Marie Armstrong.
The combination of the two on the same floor is going to bring in college scouts from major Division I schools, according to Durden.
"This game is going to be a huge game for our program," Alverson said. "It’s time for our team to have a breakout."
And the road isn’t about to get any easier for Buford with games in the next eight days against North Hall, Class AA No. 2-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian and Class AAA No. 6-ranked Gainesville.
Buford already has top 10 wins against Gainesville, Paideia and formerly ranked North Hall this season. Its only loss against a ranked opponent is to Greater Atlanta Christian on Jan. 8.
"That’s a great thing that we can go out there and compete night in and night out," Durden said. "Hopefully playing a tough schedule will have us ready for the state tournament."
Buford should be more than battle tested when the Region 6-AA tournament rolls around with a pair of games against region rivals No. 1 Wesleyan and No. 2 GAC.
"We care a lot about the opportunity getting to play Wesleyan," Buford junior Jocelyn Danley said. "If we win, I could see myself crying."
The prevailing goal for Buford tonight is to take another step in preparing for the state playoffs. For Durden, this isn’t a new situation.
In 14 seasons coaching at Dade County, Durden coached his team to three state title games and 13 state tournament appearances.
"I feel like we’re certainly going to be the underdog heading into this game," Durden said. "I hope we can go in there and compete and win."