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Lubin, Simonds guide Buford boys to state basketball finals

MILLEDGEVILLE — The 2013-14 edition of the Buford boys’ basketball team hasn’t lost a game since December and if the Wolves can have it their way, it will be next November before that chance will come again.

That’s the case after Buford got off to a fast start in its Class AAA semifinal matchup with Callaway and then hitched its wagon to a senior and a sophomore in the second half en route to a 92-76 win over the Cavaliers Saturday afternoon at Georgia College & State University’s Centennial Center.

Senior Rakim Lubin and sophomore D’Marcus Simonds combined to score 67 of Buford’s 92 points — including a season-high 37 from Lubin and 30 from Simonds — as the Wolves advanced to next Saturday’s state championship game to take on Morgan County at 4:45 p.m. in Macon.

Morgan County defeated Johnson, Savannah 70-51 in the second semifinal.

“What I like the most is the camaraderie between the guys,” Buford head coach Allen Whitehart said. “I’m not taking anything away from last year’s team because they were a final four team. I’ve been stressed (this year), but they take it like it’s just another day. Other teams have been uptight, but they’re loose and that’s a good sign.”

Lubin had 18 points through the first three quarters for Buford and then exploded for 19 in the fourth quarter when Callaway was nipping at the Wolves’ heels.

Callaway (22-7) cut the Buford lead down to nine on three different occasions early in the final quarter, but the Wolves were able to answer each time and it was usually Lubin who did the work.

Lubin had 13 field goals in the game and seven of those came in the fourth quarter to go along with 5 of 9 shooting from the free throw line.

Lubin also finished with a double-double by grabbing 12 rebounds and blocked four shots.

“It was just about us sticking together and staying playing together as a team,” Lubin said. “We started to separate playing as a team and that’s how (Callaway) started to cut the lead down.

“It was kind of scary in the fourth quarter. We knew they were a good team and they like to run and play that type of game. But we pulled together.”

Buford had raced out to a 14-2 lead midway through the opening quarter and eventually took a 17-8 advantage heading to the second quarter.

That’s when Simonds started to heat up.

After a five-point first quarter, Simonds connected on a pair of three-pointers and finished the first half with 15 points as Buford went to the locker rooms with a 37-21 halftime lead.

Simonds continued his good work by going for 11 points in the high-scoring third quarter when Callaway began to show signs of coming back.

The two teams combined for 54 points in the third quarter, including 28 from Callaway after the Cavaliers had just 21 points through the first two quarters.

But Buford kept the hot hand shooting the ball and racked up 26 points of its own in the period and took a 63-49 lead into the final quarter.

The sophomore Simonds had his best quarter in the third, connecting for 11 points on five field goals with many of those coming on drives to the basket as Buford continued to attack inside.

Along with 30 points, Simonds also had 12 rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots for Buford and Matt McMorris added nine points and four assists as the Wolves produced their highest point output since a 106-75 win over Banks County on January 21.

Isaac Nauta had just three points, but pulled down eight rebounds for Buford as the Wolves controlled the glass and the paint to secure the win.

“You never know who’s going to step up between those two (Lubin and Simonds),” Whitehart said. “And on days like today, I thought they both did on the same tonight. They followed their lead. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Rakim as locked in as he has been over the last two weeks.”

Callaway was led by sophomore Dre Martin, who scored 24 for the Cavaliers and had 16 in the third quarters on seven field goals and a pair of free throws.

Freshman Braylon Sanders added 12 points, including 10 in the final period when Callaway kept chipping away at the Buford lead.

Terry Godwin had a nine-point third quarter and finished with 11 for the Cavaliers.