BUFORD -- If there's one thing that the Buford girls basketball team can count on, its 32 minutes of defensive pressure.
The Lady Wolves needed every second of it to withstand a strong North Hall upset bid in a tougher-than-the-score-indicated 53-43 win Tuesday night in another key Region 7-AAA macthup at the Buford gym.
Buford (15-1, 7-0 Region 7-AAA) came into the game with just a 1 1/2-game lead on the Lady Trojans (10-5, 4-2) but left with a little more breathing room.
Buford held North Hall scoreless over the final 3:12 of the game after a pair of Sydney Cleveland free throws pulled the Lady Trojans within 45-43. Buford forced four key turnovers in the final minutes and converted them into an 8-0 run to finish the game.
"I think that was the difference," Buford coach Gene Durden said. "We were finally able to take advantage of some of their mistakes. North Hall played very hard and did a great job of keeping us out of our game."
It was a tight battle from the opening tip. Buford scored first on two free throws by Corey Staples but North Hall answered with a 3-pointer by Sydney Cleveland to spark a 9-2 run, highlighted by two more 3-pointers, one from Katie Sayres and a second by Sydney Cleveland.
The Lady Trojans were hot early hitting four of their first five 3-pointers and led by as many as five, 14-9, on a 3-pointer from Sadie Cleveland.
Buford would rally in the second quarter. Tara Dambach would convert a pair of steals to spark a 7-4 run by the Lady Wolves for a 27-24 lead. Buford would eventually take a 32-28 lead into halftime.
The Buford defense tightened up in the second quarter forcing eight North Hall turnovers, including five steals, to grab the lead.
The Lady Trojans were able to tie the game twice at 33 and 36 on a pair of Kensi Gillespie 3-pointers but they could never retake the lead. Buford's Camille Anderson capped a quick 7-0 run with a steal and layup before North Hall countered with a 7-2 run, ending with Cleveland's free throws with 3:12 left.
The Lady Wolves have won 15 straight, including 10 straight at home, with several of the victories taking on the same characteristics of close games until the final few minutes when the defense takes control.
Durden said it has been a fun group to work with.
"We only have one real star name but these girls have played together for several years and have a tremendous chemistry on the court," he said. "They know how to play together as a team and are very unselfish. I enjoy watching them play."
North Hall's Sydney Cleveland led all scorers with 20 points. Gillespie added nine points and Sadie Cleveland had seven for the Lady Trojans.
Anderson and Staples each had 10 points to pace Buford. Bree Horrocks added nine and Dambach finished with six for the Lady Wolves. Anderson and Staples combined for six steals to spark the defense.
North Hall is 4-5 in its last nine games after a 6-0 start to the season.
BUFORD BOYS 71
NORTH HALL 46
Buford used a 17-0 run over the final four minutes of the first quarter to pull away for the Region 7-AAA victory.
The Wolves (11-5, 7-0 Region 7-AAA) pushed their win streak to a season-high five games and stayed atop the region standings with the win.
North Hall (4-10, 2-4) stayed close early, holding a 6-5 lead midway through the first quarter. But Buford exploded behind Rakim Lubin, who poured in nine of his game-high 35 points in the period.
After Buford built a 27-10 lead early in the second quarter, the Trojans got as close as 27-18 fueled by 3-pointers by Carson Heinen and Brock Wingo. But the Wolves closed out the half with a 7-2 spurt for a 34-20 halftime lead.
The Wolves picked up right where they left off in the second half. They opened a quick 20-point lead led by as many as 27 in the fourth quarter.
Nine players scored for Buford. D'Marcus Simonds had 10 points for the Wolves.
Heinen scored 17 points to lead North Hall. Brock Wingo and Evan Easton each added eight points for the Trojans.