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BUFORD (GA) – At this juncture of the season with the playoffs approaching, it’s always good to face a quality opponent outside of the region and perform well. The Buford Lady Wolves did such against Southwest DeKalb.
Behind the scoring of freshman Ava Grace Watson (17 points) and senior Ashyia Willis (15 points, seven assists, five steals) along with their full-court trapping defense, the Lady Wolves earned a 62-44 home win over the Lady Panthers on February 5 at Buford Arena.
“This time of the year we were just wanting to play a quality opponent,” Buford girls’ coach Gene Durden said. “That’s what we got and hopefully their team got better and we got better.”
On the way to improving to 18-0 this season, Buford had to overcome an early 7-0 deficit but once sophomore Kirby Wallis (eight points) hit a 3-pointer to end the drought, the Lady Wolves finished the quarter with an 18-3 run for the lead which they would maintain the rest of the game.
Southwest DeKalb senior Adrieanna Brownlee, who finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, was the main reason the Lady Wolves trailed early.
Buford stretched its lead out to double digits by halftime but had to wait until the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach because the 6-foot center Brownlee came out of the locker room hot, scoring nine points during a 13-2 surge to pull Southwest DeKalb (15-6) within 37-34 at the 5:40 mark.
“We were very inconsistent with a whole lot of things from effort and doing what we needed to do to handle a team like Southwest DeKalb,” Durden said. “They do a great job on the boards and a great job of moving the basketball. A lot of times we’d bring the energy and speed the game up and that played in our tempo and then a lot of times they slowed it down and that played in their tempo.”
But once again, the Lady Wolves closed the quarter well, thanks to three consecutive layups by Watson for a 46-36 edge heading into the final frame, which they successfully started unlike the first and third quarters.
In the closing period, Buford put together a game-sealing 11-0 run that was punctuated when Willis whipped a beautiful pass while driving along the baseline to senior Sara Viti (13 points, four steals) for a 3-pointer from the wing for a 59-40 score.
“That is a veteran play and Sara knew where she was supposed to be on baseline drives,” Durden said.
Junior Tatum Ozment grabbed 10 rebounds and collected five steals for the Lady Wolves, who finished with 22 steals.
“We are one of the only teams that press on missed and made shots,” Durden said. “We’re going to continuously keep the pressure on you and hopefully you wear down mentally or physically. It worked some and sometimes it didn’t. We just got to be more consistent with what we do.”