Others step up for Buford

Buford's Shereese Williams (40) tries to rebound the ball against Rabun County's Logan Turner on Friday.

Buford's Shereese Williams (40) tries to rebound the ball against Rabun County's Logan Turner on Friday.

DALTON -- On a night when leading scorers Andraya Carter and Alysha Rudnik combined for just 16 points, it would be easy to assume the Buford girls would be in big trouble.

However, their teammates -- especially Lacey Pass -- made sure that wouldn't be the case in their Class AA state quarterfinal game against Rabun County.

The 5-foot-6 senior hit four key 3-pointers in the first half on her way to a career-high 14 points, and the defending state champion Wolves played their typical smothering pressure defense to gradually pull away for a 48-28 victory Friday at the Northwest Georgia Trade Center.

"We've built a program in which we play a lot of different kids," Buford coach Gene Durden said after the Wolves (27-4) advanced to the state semifinals to take on the winner of Saturday night's Thomasville-Laney game next Thursday at 4 p.m. at the Macon Centreplex. "It's our team mentality in everything that we do."

That team mentality was quite evident when Buford outscored Rabun County (27-2) 8-0 -- with four different players providing the points -- over the final 5:03 of the first quarter to take the lead for good at 13-6 after the opening 8 minutes.

And it was necessary for the Wolves to expand on that lead, especially after five straight points by Brianna Beck in the final 45 seconds of the first half helped the Wildcats cut what had been a 16-point Buford lead down to just 26-15 heading into intermission.

Enter Pass, who had hit a key 3-pointer during a second quarter run that pushed the lead into double digits, though her most important contributions were still to come in the second half.

With the score 28-16 after a Beck free throw 1:08 into the third quarter, Pass got herself open off screens and knocked down 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions over a 1:32 span, pushing Buford's lead to 36-16 with 5:07 left in the period.

"I felt like I needed to help out," said Pass, who also contributed six rebounds and two steals on the night. "We needed to get some distance from (Rabun County).

"(Carter and Rudnik) are our two main players, so it feels pretty good to be able to win by 20 when they're not on their best game."

Added Durden, "(Pass' 3-pointers) probably felt like a dagger in the heart (to Rabun County), especially with us playing defense as well as we were."

Though Buford's defense forced a relatively modest 24 turnovers, it still held Rabun County at bay most of the night, including outrebounding the Wildcats 47-38, led by nine from Shereese Williams and eight off the bench from Constance Harrison.

"We like to talk about controllable factors," Durden said. "Rebounding and defense are two of them. We did a good job with controllable factors (Friday) night."