Buford to face Lovett for third time chasing fourth title

Photo: Bob Snow Buford's Tara Dambach puts up a shot during Thursday's semifinals game against Brooks County in Macon.

Photo: Bob Snow Buford's Tara Dambach puts up a shot during Thursday's semifinals game against Brooks County in Macon.


Photo: Bob Snow Buford's MacKenzie Darrah (14) puts up a shot for two points against Brooks County on Thursday night. The Wolves beat Brooks County 70-37 to advance to the state championship game on Saturday in Macon.


Photo: Bob Snow Buford celebrates with fans after their win over Brokks County on Thursday in Macon to advance to the state championship game.

MACON -- Brooks County entered its semifinal game against Buford perfect against Class AA competition.

The Trojans' six losses all came to Georgia programs in Class AAAA or higher. Buford made sure that streak stopped.

Marching to their fourth straight state title game, the Wolves dominated overmatched Brooks County, winning 70-37 and setting up a Region 6-AA showdown in Saturday's Class AA state final against Lovett. Buford beat Lovett in both previous meetings this season, winning by 14 and by six.

Almost immediately Thursday, the Wolves were up by more than that.

Kristina Nelson scored Buford's first six points, all off offensive rebounds and Buford jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the game's first three minutes. Nelson scored eight of her 10 points in the first quarter. She had four offensive rebounds that led to easy baskets.

"We didn't get it to Kristina, she went and got it," Buford head coach Gene Durden said. "That is a tribute to her, she used her size to get on the boards. She's injured, too. To get her started early was a big deal."

Nelson said she knew her size was an advantage and she wanted to use it to send a message to Brooks County.

"We knew it was going to be a huge mismatch in the post and we decided to take it to them early," Nelson said. "We wanted to show them that we weren't just some other team that they were playing. That we were different than any other team that they played before."

Brooks County learned that lesson early.

The Trojans didn't score their first point, a free throw, until 4:34 remained in the first quarter. Buford sandwiched that one point with two 10-0 runs and by halftime led 47-11. Eight different Wolves scored in the first half alone, led by 11 apiece from Kaela Davis and MacKenzie Darrah. Davis finished the night with a game-high 13 points and Davis and Darrah hit Buford's only 3-pointers. Darrah scored 11 points.

"We started so fast and everybody played a great role," Durden said. "We played well offensively and defensively. We always say this, there are three ways you have to win a state championship. You have to play great half court defense, you have to rebound and you have to execute on offense and we did all of that tonight."

Buford quickly extended its halftime lead in third quarter, opening the second half with another 10-0 run. By the midway point of the quarter, Durden removed his starters and by the fourth quarter they were all resting comfortably with ice and watching from the bench.

In the end, 11 different players scored for the Wolves. Bree Horrocks led the second-half effort with eight points and Kallie Case scored five of her nine in the third quarter.

"I was just happy it was a situation where we could play some of our younger kids because that's our future," Durden said. "I told them at halftime this is a situation where you can get valuable playing experience here in the coliseum to build for our future."

But the future doesn't matter come Saturday, just a shot at a fourth straight state title.

"It never gets old," Durden said. "We went through two weeks where, in 10 days, we played seven nationally ranked opponents. We got our noses bloodied and we went through a lot of tough times but tonight that's when it's all worth it."