BUFORD — Any notion that Buford’s girls basketball team hasn’t been challenged this season was put to rest Friday as the Wolves beat visiting Columbia in a battle of top-ranked defending state champions.
The two-time defending Class AA champion Wolves raced ahead of the defending AAA titlist Eagles 10-2 in the first eight minutes and never looked back en route to remaining unbeaten 65-47.
The win kept the Wolves (5-0) on course toward last season’s 12-0 start before a loss to Southwest DeKalb. Now, their challenge might be keeping their momentum while idle until Duluth’s Peach State Christmas Tournament beginning Dec. 27.
“Our practices have been harder than games, so that shouldn’t be a problem,” Buford’s Andraya Carter said. “We’ve still got to take care of our bodies and be sure to rest, too.”
Friday’s game against Columbia was billed as the Wolves’ biggest test in the first part of the season, especially once a season-opening showcase in Mobile had been canceled. A rugged game if nothing else, the Wolves beat Columbia (6-2) on a night when neither team shot particularly well.
Columbia came to Buford riding a five-game win streak since losing one of two games in Florida during Thanksgiving week. But the Eagles had trouble contending with the Wolves, ranked No. 17 nationally by USA Today. Buford led 22-12 after a quarter, 36-22 after two and 49-32 after three, then kept its distance. The margin of victory was by far fewer than the Wolves’ average of 39 through their previous four games.
Buford’s Kaela Davis, who helped Norcross to a AAAAA championship last season, led all scorers with 22 points, while Carter netted 17 and Sheresse Williams 10. Davis bucketed a 3-point basket in every quarter, the last of which gave the Wolves their biggest lead, 56-36, with 5:13 to play.
Columbia came within 13 twice in the final two minutes, but no closer. Victoria Gonzalez led Columbia with 12 points, followed by Destinee Smith’s 11 and Zuri Frost’s 10.
“We made some poor shot decisions,” Columbia coach Chantay Frost said.
Buford’s Davis said the key was building an early lead.
“You’ve always got to come out big and play with intensity,” she said.
Wolves coach Gene Durden felt defense made the difference, though he said his players struggled to keep Columbia out of the paint in the second half.
“They didn’t think we’d pressure them like we did,” he said. “Any time you keep a quality team like Columbia to that many points is good.”