BUFORD -- St. Pius sophomore Asia Durr picked the perfect time to have a coming out party.
The shifty guard sliced up a very good Buford defense for 32 points, including scoring 11 of her team's final 13 points, to lead the Lady Golden Lions to a stunning 56-43 win on Buford's home court Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA state tournament.
According to both St. Pius coach Kyle Snipes and Buford's Gene Durden, Durr was the apparent center of the universe.
"We wanted to get Asia going early and make Buford have to stop her or Jasmine (Carter) but we didn't think they could stop both of them," Snipes said.
"Durr is a solid player. Our goal was to limit her ability to break down the defense. We didn't do it. She just kept making plays," Durden said.
Both coaches also hinted it may have been a championship-esque game with arguably the two best teams in Class AAA meeting in the Elite 8. And neither was exactly thrilled.
"It's ludicrous and ridiculous that the (GHSA) can't do something about reseeding the tournament at this stage," Snipes said. "It's just a shame one of these teams is done while other teams that we've beaten will still be playing. But the system is what it is right now. I feel bad for his girls and all they have been through."
"Yea, it's tough to have two teams this good having to play each other so early," Durden said. "But we would have had to play them at some point."
It was a tough way to end it for the Lady Wolves, who fought through countless adversities during the season.
"These girls have been through a lot and kept fighting the entire season," Durden said. "I'm extremely proud of them. It's one of the best groups we've ever had here."
The win for St. Pius (28-3) was its 18th straight and it snapped Buford's 10-game win streak. The Lady Golden Lions are now 3-0 against Region 7-AAA this season.
St. Pius took it right to Buford (24-5) from the outset. The Lady Golden Lions opened the game with a long 3-pointer from Durr and trailed just twice in the first half.
Buford's Kritina Nelson would give the Lady Wolves their first lead at 6-5 on a stick back basket but St. Pius would answer with an 8-2 run to take its biggest lead at the time at 13-8 with 2:03 left in the first quarter.
The Lady Wolves would come right back. After a Durr basket gave St. Pius a 15-12 lead late in the first quarter, Buford's Camille Anderson would drain back-to-back 3-pointers to cap an 11-2 run for a 23-17 lead with 2:38 left in the half.
The Lady Golden Lions answered that with a 10-0 spurt to close out the half behind five points and an assist from Durr for a 27-23 lead. Durr finished with 16 points, three rebounds, and two assists in the first half.
Snipes said his group executed their defensive plan to near perfection.
"Nelson is going to get her points. Our goal was to limit the touches of their big girls inside and we did that pretty well I thought," he said.
St. Pius would never trail in the second half but Buford would cut it to 27-26 on a Bree Horrocks free throw moments into the third quarter. The Lady Golden Lions would answer with a 12-3 run, sparked by a pair of 3-pointers from Mackenzie Garrison, for a 39-29 lead.
The Lady Wolves again would fight back closing out the quarter on a 6-0 run to trail 39-35 on a pair of Nelson baskets. Buford would pull within 41-39 on a three-point play from Nelson but could get no closer as St. Pius held the Lady Wolves to just two field goals over the final 6:06 of the game to pull away for the win.
Durden said missed opportunities played a big role in their earlier-than-expected playoff exit.
"We had chances early to score more inside but couldn't convert," he said. "You can't miss opportunities like that in a game this big against a team that good. That was a big factor."
St. Pius also beat the Lady Wolves at their own game in getting to the free throw line. The Lady Golden Lions were 16-of-20 for the game while Buford was just 4-of-9 for the game.
Nelson finished with 19 points and eight rebounds in her final game for Buford. Mackenzie Darrah had seven points and three assists and Maya Dillard had four points, three rebounds, four assists, and two steals in their final games for the Lady Wolves. Anderson finished with nine points.
In addition to her 32 points, Durr also had eight rebounds. Carter finished with eight points, six in the fourth quarter, to go with six rebounds, five assists, and five steals. Garrison finished with nine points on three 3-pointers for the Lady Golden Lions.