BUFORD -- The Buford boys basketball team knew East Hall was coming to town Tuesday to set the tone for what figures to be a war for the Region 7-AAA boys title.
Instead, the Wolves made a statement of their own.
The Vikings pushed Buford to the limit on the road, but poor shooting combined with a tough Buford defense was too much for East Hall in a 74-66 Wolves' victory at the Buford gym.
East Hall was just 6-for-30 from behind 3-point range and Buford forced 27 turnovers in a game that was tight until a 19-8 Buford run in the second half gave the Wolves control.
"We knew they were going to come in here and play hard and try to make an early statement in the region," Buford coach Allen Whitehart said. "They gave us everything they had. We made some adjustments at halftime and I was real pleased with how we came out defensively in the second half.
"This was a big win because there are a lot of good teams and it will be a tight (region) race all year. You need to win at home."
East Hall (3-4, 1-1 Region 7-AAA) led 36-34 early in the third quarter but Buford (4-1, 2-0) turned up the defensive pressure forcing four East Hall turnovers in a five-possession to spark a 9-2 run for a 45-38 lead. The Vikings would cut the lead to 46-41 on a Kyvon Davenport free throw with 1:38 left in the third but that would be as close as they would get the rest of the way.
Rakim Lubin, Buford's 6-foot-8 Connecticut commit, then took over for the next two minutes. Lubin finished off four ally-oop dunks and blocked two shots to spark the decisive run that would see Buford lead 65-49 with four minutes left in the game. They also forced five more East Hall turnovers in a four minute span.
"(Rock) really stepped up for us but I thought it was our defense that set the table," Whitehart said. "We were able to turn those into some easy points."
East Hall tried to get back in the game hitting three 3-point field goals to close the gap to 72-64 with 34 seconds left. The Wolves kept the Vikings at bay hitting 9-of-12 free throws in the final 1:45 to seal the game.
Despite the good shooting at the end, neither team was dazzling at the line. Buford hit just 19-of-38 free throws for the game while East Hall was 14-of-20.
Lubin would finish with 21 points for Buford to lead all-scorers. D'Marcus Simons had 18 points and nine rebounds, Taylor Mills had 17 points, and Matt McMorris added 12 points for the Wolves.
Davenport finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds to pace East Hall but he was held scoreless in the fourth quarter. Jacquise Hopkins had 11 points and Elijah Lipscomb 10 points for the Vikings.
East Hall led most of the first quarter taking a 15-12 lead with just under three minutes left in the period paced by seven points from Davenport. Mills would give the Wolves their first lead of the game, 17-15, on a basket at the buzzer to end the quarter.
Davenport would tie the game for the Vikings to open the second quarter and then Buford exploded for a 10-0 run over the next two minutes for a 27-17 lead. The Vikings would answer to end the half.
East Hall responded with a 15-2 run, highlighted by a four-point play from Lipscomb to reclaim the lead 32-29 with 35 seconds left. Buford would tie the game on a free throw by Simonds with six seconds left and Davenport would give the Vikings a 34-32 halftime lead on a layup on a beautiful three-pass fastbreak basket at the buzzer.
BUFORD GIRLS 63
EAST HALL 27
Buford led just 4-2 midway through the first quarter but used a 17-2 run over the final 3:30 of the period to blow the game open.
The Lady Wolves (4-1, 2-0 Region 7-AAA) used a 10-0 run to take control and put things out of reach with a 7-0 spurt in a 40 second span in the final minute to lead 21-4 after the first quarter.
The Lady Vikings (1-4, 0-2) never got closer than 15 the rest of the way as the Buford defense was tough to crack. Buford forced 20 first half turnovers while building a 32-11 halftime lead.
Buford opened the third quarter with a 14-3 run for a 46-14 lead. The Lady Wolves led by as many as 43 points midway through the fourth quarter. East Hall would score the final seven points of the game.
Corey Staples led Buford with 16 points. Taylor Ozment added seven points and Camille Anderson, Tara Dambach, and Bree Horrocks had six points each for the Lady Wolves.
East Hall was paced by 10 points from Jatasia Bailey. Eboni Burce had five points for the lady Vikings.