Nelson has career game for GAC

NORCROSS -- Buford and GAC were both intent on shutting down the other team's leader in their clash in the Region 6-AA girls championship game.

The No. 2 state-ranked Wolves definitely did a better job of shutting down GAC's Chaney Means than the fourth-ranked Spartans did of stopping Buford's Andraya Carter.

Unfortunately for Buford, GAC found another source for scoring and rebounding -- a big one, as it turned out.

Kristina Nelson posted career highs of 28 points and 12 rebounds as the Spartans held off the Wolves 55-50 to claim the title and the region's top state tournament seed Monday night at the Long Forum.

"They did a great job taking Chaney away," GAC (25-4) coach Cal Boyd said of Buford (24-4). "But our three (other guards) -- Clarke (Boards), Sierra (Lawrence) and Peyton (Whitted) shared the responsibility of handling their pressure. And Kristina played terrific. To catch some of those passes and then take them to the basket under control was outstanding."

Buford adjusted how they defended Means, who torched the Wolves for a career night in a GAC win at Buford late last month.

And it worked as they held the Western Kentucky signee to just two points. But that adjustment came at the price of the Spartans' adjustment of breaking the Buford press and getting the ball down to the 6-foot-3 freshman Nelson.

"We had a tough time handling her in the paint," Wolves coach Gene Durden said. "Kristina did a good job. What we tried with Chaney worked, but we let other (players) become factors."

That is also what Buford did when GAC tried to lock down on Carter early as Alysha Rudnik 10 points by the 7:22 mark of the second quarter, including a 3-pointer that gave the Wolves their biggest lead of the game at 18-10.

But that's when GAC made its adjustment as the Spartans outscored Buford 17-6 over the remainder of the period to take a 27-24 lead into halftime.

Even when Nelson picked up her second personal foul with 6:46 left in the half, she stayed aggressive by allowing her guards to help get her involved.

"I was really surprised they didn't take it right at me," Nelson said of Buford after her second foul. "Normally, most teams do that, but I just stayed with it and trusted in my teammates. It was a trust factor, really."

Indeed, Nelson's teammates did a good job of passing on long range jumpers -- the Spartans did not hit a single 3-point shot on the night -- and penetrated the Buford zone before dishing off to Nelson, resulting in 17 assists, seven by Boards and five by Means.

And they would need every one of those plays, as Carter was not about to allow Buford to go down without a fight.

The sophomore scored nine points in the third quarter on her way to a 23-point, four-rebound, four-assist, five-steal night.

And when she dished off to Shareese Williams for a buzzer-beating layup, the Wolves had cut a six-point deficit down to just 41-39 heading into the fourth quarter.

Buford then had the ball first with a chance to tie or take the lead, but came up empty.

Nelson then scored on a lob from Boards on the other end, igniting an 8-0 GAC run to push the Spartans' lead to 49-39 with 5:05 left.

The Wolves kept fighting, pulling to within five points three more times before the end of the game.

But another layup by Nelson with 1:18 remaining and two free throws by Boards with 20.5 seconds left sealed the win, and the title, for GAC, which also got 10 points and seven rebounds from Lawrence and eight points from Whitted.

Williams chipped in nine points, four rebounds and three steals for Buford, while Rudnik added five boards and three assists.