Buford girls secure state berth

NORCROSS -- The Buford girls faced an awkward situation in their Region 6-AA opener against Avondale on Friday at Greater Atlanta Christian. The Wolves were overwhelming favorites, but could afford to neither let up against the gritty Blue Devils nor simply run up the score against an outmanned opponent.

They settled for a little of both. Buford played its regular rotation for much of the first half and rolled up a big halftime lead. Safely ahead, they gave more playing opportunities to the other girls in the second half. The result was a 73-40 win for Buford, which advanced the Wolves into the second round and securely into the state playoffs.

"You just have to work on the little things," said Buford coach Gene Durden. "And we just tried to run our offense."

Avondale (3-17) had almost no chance. Buford pressed and attacked throughout the half with plenty of success. At times it seemed like the Wolves were playing with an extra player on the court; they had a 28-1 run in the first half and led 45-13 at halftime.

"Every time you walk on the floor you've got a chance to get better," Durden said. "And tonight we got better shooting the basketball."

Buford (24-3) was led by freshmen Taylor Tate with 13 points and McKenzie Darrah with 12, but that hardly tells the story. Only two players on the roster failed to score, which kept official scorer Kim Vick busy all night.

Sophomore Andraya Carter came off the bench in the second period and hit three long 3-pointers, one from the middle, one from the right and one from the left, before taking a seat. The Wolves made 11 3-pointers, as well as a slew of baskets off transition and stickbacks.

"We're lucky to have a lot of girls who can play different positions," Durden said. "We were able to get everybody out on the floor and rest some legs."

Avondale got a 26-point performance from Shekinah Elliott, who had five 3-pointers. She sparked a mini-rally early in the third quarter when the Blue Devils scored nine consecutive points, but that only got them as close as 25 and they never got closer.

Buford advances to today's 3 p.m. semifinal game to play Lovett (19-8), which beat Westminster 54-42 in the early game. Tatianna Jackson scored 21 and Sydney Umeri added 15 for the Lions. Tindall Sewell scored 13 for the losing Wildcats.

Buford doesn't expect another walkover against Lovett. The Lions knocked off Buford in the last regular-season game. "We didn't shoot the ball that night," said Durden, whose team had no such trouble on Friday.

In the boys bracket, Decatur (20-5) ran away from Lovett 61-40. Trumon Jefferson scored 27 points to lead the Bulldogs, while Robert Renfurm scored 17 for the Lions (8-15).