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BUFORD (GA) – Nate Brafford had the best individual performance but Buford was better collectively.
Juniors Jaylon Taylor, Alahn Sumler, Caleb Blackwell and sophomore London Williams all scored in double figures as the Wolves outlasted Rabun Gap-Nacoochee 88-80 at home in a non-region contest on January 6.
With the Eagles looking to keep the tempo as high as possible, Buford didn’t have many issues breaking its opponents’ full-court press and getting easy baskets or good looks at the basket unless Brafford was turning away shots.
“I was very pleased with the way we played because the style that they play and the number of kids that they play they are able to pick you up and press you and just try to take you totally out of running any half-court offense,” Buford coach Eddie Martin said. “Earlier in the year, we might have struggled some against that but we have played some teams that pressed us the whole ball game. For the most part, I thought when we beat the press we did a good job of either attacking it or driving and kicking out and getting good shots out of it. We didn’t get to run a whole lot of sets tonight but we shot the ball extremely well tonight at all levels.”
As far as Brafford, the 6-8 junior attacked the Wolves’ defense from the perimeter, on the drive and in the post on the way to a game-high 35 points. He converted a four-point play to score the game’s first basket, and later added six rebounds and six blocks.
“He’s a heck of a player, a very good offensive player,” Martin said of Brafford.
Taylor put his athleticism and versatility on full display for Buford, notching 23 points, five steals and two blocks. He threw down two alley oops from Blackwell (13 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and four steals) but his one-handed slam after a drive along the baseline was his best finish at the rim.
“I thought Blackwell had a great ball game,” Martin said. “Jaylon did a good job finishing around the rim and he played pretty good defense.”
The game was close in the second quarter until Sumler caught fire to help the Wolves create some distance before halftime. First, Sumler knocked down a jumper and he converted back-to-back layups. Then after Taylor’s 3-pointer and aforementioned baseline jam, Sumler drained a 3 and added two more layins for a 39-30 advantage.
Sumler’s ability to get past his opponent off the dribble created many problems for Rabun Gap. On one play, he used his deceptive handle to get past Brafford and finish quickly at the basket to prevent Brafford from blocking the shot.
Williams was a force on the boards for Buford, collecting eight rebounds and scoring his 19 points either in the paint or from the foul line where he sank seven of eight shots. Senior Marc Mauge had some timely buckets as well, finishing with nine points.
In the second half, the Wolves didn’t widen the gap until late in the fourth but always had an answer when Rabun Gap drew close.
Adding to Brafford’s contributions, Ricardas Butkus hit four 3-pointers on the way to 17 points while fellow seniors Nfari Benjamin and John Tastinger II added nine and eight, respectively.