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Buford rallies through injury, rolls past Decatur

Photo: Craig Cappy Buford's Kaela Davis (3) shoots over Decatur's Queen Alford (10) during Tuesday's game at Buford.

Photo: Craig Cappy Buford's Kaela Davis (3) shoots over Decatur's Queen Alford (10) during Tuesday's game at Buford.

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Photo: Craig Cappy Buford's Andraya Carter (4) makes a jump shot over Decatur's Ashleigh Rasheed during Tuesday's game at Buford.

BUFORD -- After looking sluggish through much of the first half of their Region 6-AA, Division A battle with No. 6 state-ranked Decatur, the fourth-ranked Buford girls were in need of a spark.

It came from an unfortunate spark -- an injury to starting power forward MacKenzie Darrah.

But the Wolves rallied around their fallen teammate, using a 9-0 run late in the first half to take the lead for good, and then outscoring the visiting Bulldogs 42-17 in the second half to run away with a 69-41 win to lock up the subregion's top seed at the upcoming Region 6-AA tournament.

Kaela Davis had a huge night with 25 points, nine rebounds and five steals, part of a strong all-around effort by the team that rallied around their injured teammate.

It was already an emotional night for the Wolves (15-7, 8-0) with a memorial ceremony for assistant football coach Ryan Daniels -- whose sudden death from a heart attack late last week stunned the Buford community -- between the two games of the girls/boys doubleheader.

But that emotion only built after Darrah suffered an injury to her right hip after Decatur's Jordan Dillard fell on the 6-foot-3 junior after the two collided while going up for a rebound with 5:59 left in the second quarter.

"I was talking to our trainer and it's an injury that's not very common," Buford coach Gene Durden said. "We don't know what the extent (is)."

To that point, the Wolves were struggling, while Decatur (19-4, 4-2) rode the hot shooting of Dillard and Queen Alford to take as much as a 19-11 lead midway through the second quarter.

The Bulldogs' lead was still 24-18 after Alford drained 3-pointer from the left corner with 2:59 left in the half, but that's when Buford turned up its defensive pressure.

The Wolves came up with steals on the final three Decatur possessions of the half -- two of which ended with a three-point play and a layup by reserve Caitlyn Dawkins -- to ignite a 9-0 run over the final 1:16 to send Buford into intermission with its first lead of the game at 27-24.

Dawkins and Emily Adams gave Buford a huge boost off the bench, with Dawkins scoring 10 points with two steals and Adams adding a season-high 15 points, plus six rebounds, giving the Wolves a 30-5 advantage in bench scoring.

"We had to just step up and know that one of our main players was out, and that we had to come together," said Adams, who filled in ably for Darrah after her injury. "If we weren't going to step up, we were going to be done. So, if we didn't get that energy. We knew it would be over."

The late run appeared to energize the Wolves in the second half, especially after Decatur pulled to within 32-28 after Alana Johnson's layup with 4:43 left in the third quarter.

After Davis hit 1 of 2 free throws on Buford's next possession, Andraya Carter, in just her fifth game back from an offseason knee injury, fed Dawkins for a 3-pointer from the left corner, and then scored consecutive baskets before Davis added six straight points to push the lead to 46-28 with 48.4 seconds left in the period.

Decatur pulled as close as 48-38 after Alford anded an 8-0 run with two free throws with 6:43 remaining, but Buford ended any thoughts of a Bulldogs comeback.

Davis converted a steal into a layup, while Carter added a transition layup and two free throws, before Davis put the finishing touches on an 8-0 with two more free throws to stretch the Buford lead back to 56-38 with 4:59 to play.

Carter, who finished with eight points, seven rebounds and four assists, joined Davis and Kristina Nelson with five steals each, part of a defensive effort in which the Wolves forced 30 Decatur turnovers.

Alford led Decatur with 16 points and added six rebounds, while Dillard chipped in 15 points and seven boards.

Buford boys 68, Decatur 49

Kyle Kellam led four players in double-figure scoring with a game-high 20 points as the Wolves (17-6, 10-1) rolled to the subregion victory over the Bulldogs.

Joining Kellam in double figures were A.J. Davis with 13 points, T.J. Shipes with 12 and Coby Durden with 10.