BUFORD -- Senior and Connecticut-commit Rakim Lubin may be the face of the Buford' boys basketball team, but when the Wolves need a boost, they go right to their heart and soul.
After taking a skinny 28-26 lead into halftime against Dawson County Tuesday night, Buford coach Allen Whitehart went to D'Marcus Simonds and said it was time to take matters into his hands.
The sophomore point guard responded with perhaps his best quarter of the season pouring in 13 points, dishing out three assists, swiping three steals, and pulling down two rebounds in the third quarter and sparking the Wolves to a 71-55 victory at the Buford gym.
The effort was significant in that it was the first major skirmish for the lead in Region 7-AAA. The Wolves (9-5, 5-0 Region 7-AAA) remained in first place in the region while Dawson County (12-4, 3-2) saw its five-game win streak snapped.
"D'Marcus was the difference," Whitehart said. "We told him at halftime it was time to take over and he really stepped up. We're a young team and at times they show that. But it was a region game and every team in this region comes ready to play. Dawson County did a great job in the first half of taking our game away from us."
It wasn't just a one-man show, however. Lubin was on the receiving end of three ally-oop passes for dunks as part of a 15-point third quarter, capped by a long 3-pointer in the final seconds to give Buford a 59-35 lead.
"They have a great chemistry together out there on the court," Whitehart said. "They really feed off each other and keep each other focused. Rakim is so hard to stop inside."
Lubin finished with 29 points and eight rebounds while Simonds had 23 points, four rebounds, eight assists, and four steals for Buford.
The contrast in styles was evident in the first half. Buford tried to pound the ball inside to Lubin while the Tigers bombed away from the outside.
Buford took a quick 2-0 lead on a Simonds driving layup only to see Dawson County answer with a 10-2 run, capped by a 3-pointer from Levi Whitfield midway through the first quarter.
The Wolves would use an 11-5 run to close out the opening period to pull within 15-13 and then grabbed a 26-20 lead in the second quarter with a 13-3 spurt, powered by three monstrous dunks from Lubin.
The Tigers would climb within 28-26 by halftime but Buford opened the third quarter with a 15-0 run behind Simonds and Lubin to take control.
Dawson County hit three of its first nine 3-pointers but the Tigers went cold over the next two quarters hitting just 1-of-14 over a 12-minute span.
The Tigers hit five straight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as they closed the gap in the final minutes.
Sam Muenchen paced Dawson County with 16 points, including four 3-pointers. Whitmire and Jackson Putnam each added 13 points for the Tigers. Lucas Pain, one of the Tigers leading scorers, was held to just two points.
Both teams will be back in action on Friday in key region games. Dawson County will play host to North Hall while Buford travels to West Hall.
BUFORD GIRLS 64,
DAWSON COUNTY 43
Buford scored two baskets in the first 15 seconds and then used a 19-0 second run to make a statement in Region 7-AAA with the lopsided win.
The Lady Wolves (12-1, 5-0 Region 7-AAA) never trailed in the first major battle for first place in the region. Camille Anderson and Corey Staples traded assisting baskets to open the game and Staples would convert two straight steals into five points as Buford ran out to an 11-2 lead.
Dawson County, playing without head coach Steve Sweat, who was attending the birth of a grandchild, cut the lead to 13-6 on a stickback basket by Sheyenne Seabolt but could get no closer.
Buford closed out the first quarter with a 7-2 run, and after the Lady Tigers pulled within 20-12 on six straight points, the Lady Wolves exploded for its big run in a five minute period to run out to a 39-12 lead.
Dawson County (12-4, 3-2) scored the final four points of the first half to trim the lead to 39-16 by halftime.
The Buford defense was outstanding forcing 34 Dawson County turnovers, many of those leading to baskets or preventing the Lady Tigers from scoring.
Dawson County also had a rough shooting game. Typically a good 3-point shooting team, the Lady Tigers were just 2-of-20 from 3-point range in the game.
Buford pushed its lead to as many as 32 points -- 53-21 -- early in the fourth quarter. Dawson County got as close as 20 in the final minute.
Anderson would finish with a game-high 18 points to go with five rebounds and three assists to lead Buford. Staples added 13 and Bree Horrocks 10 for the Lady Wolves.
Seabolt led Dawson County with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Ashley Parker added 12 points and six rebounds, Haley Burgess added eight points and Karlie Bearden had seven points for the Lady Tigers.