The start couldn’t have been better for Warner Robins against a perennial state title contender. The Demons led five and were clicking on both ends of the court.
But foul trouble started creeping into the equation, as did Buford’s accuracy. A seven-point run in less than a minute and another seven-point run shortly thereafter in the final 1:49 of the second quarter put Buford in control en route to a 77-56 win over Warner Robins in a GHSA Class 5A girls quarterfinal game Tuesday.
Warner Robins ended the season at 27-2 for a two-year mark of 50-5.
Buford went on its first run in the second quarter after leading 22-21, then extended the lead to 40-27 at the half.
Warner Robins had to sit ballhandlers Shynia Jackson, Kezia Holmes and Victoria Brown with some foul trouble in the second quarter, and Buford took advantage of some sluggish passing and turnovers to establish control.
Le’Terria Mathis scored 18 in her final game for the Demons, while senior Holmes and Jackson had 12 each. Tory Ozment, a 6-0 junior point guard, led Buford — which hit 10 3-pointers — with 22 points.
Five who mattered
Mathis: The senior guard was all over the place, with eight rebounds and three steals.
Holmes: The senior guard look ready to take over late, showing a refusal to give in after Buford took over. Holmes, who left the game briefly after getting sick on the court, had four assists and three blocks, plus five rebounds.
Audrey Weiner and Rachel Dobbs: The Buford pair teamed for 26 points, including 24 coming on eight 3-pointers.
Ozment: She was a matchup problem all night, either bringing the ball up, cutting to the basket as the Wolves ran their offense or defending a shorter guard. She had a good night with representatives from Washington and Auburn on hand.
A good zone: To the untrained eye, Buford played zone much of the night. But it was a sagging man-to-man defense that was very active and didn’t let Warner Robins’ shooters have much room or time to get set. It was key in the second quarter, when the Demons shot 4-for-14 from the floor.
Big tradition: The Demons went down at the hands of a team that has ended many good teams’ seasons late. Buford won the 2015 Class 4A title, Class 2A titles from 2009-11, and Class 2A in 2012 and 2014. That’s six titles in an eight-year span, with trips to the Final Four and Elithe quarterfinals in the other two seasons. They have won at least 25 games in nine of the past 10 seasons.
They said it
Buford head coach Gene Durden on getting control of the tempo and game: “We’re used to playing that style, that’s what we do. We’ve done since I’ve been at Buford.
Warner Robins head coach Tracy Fendley on the game turning: “We got in foul trouble. My ballhandlers had to sit on the bench in the second quarter. I think that hurt us. That’s when they got some momentum, and their shooters started hitting. They came in and shot well.”
Durden on trailing 7-0: “I know we had (a) shaky start coming out. Those kids were overhyped. Once they settled down and started, executing, I was real pleased with everything. I had to settle them down a little bit.”
Durden on the game plan: “We had to keep them off the boards, and basically make sure they shot contested jump shots, and cut down on penetration. … Warner Robins has got a really good team. That kind of athleticism and to hold them like we did, I was real pleased.”
Fendley: “We had a strategy, and it worked for us in the first quarter. We went away from it the second quarter. Had foul trouble. We stuck to … our defense. They just hit their shots, we didn’t. They had a lot of second-chance opportunities.”
Fendley on the season, her second has head coach at her alma mater: “27-2 is nothing to hang your head about. We were playing basketball in (late) February when most teams in Georgia aren’t. 23-3 last year, 27-2 this year. These girls were 50-5 in two years. That’s really nothing to be ashamed about.”