Friday September 22nd, 2017 4:09AM

Basketball: Buford girls happy to keep proving themselves

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
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BUFORD -- All summer the likes of Camille Anderson, Tara Dambach and Bree Horrocks sweated their way through workouts with one thought burned into their minds.

"I think a lot of people thought we were going to be easy to beat this season," Anderson said. "And we did graduate a lot of talent... But we wanted to prove everyone wrong."

That proof is most definitely on display now.

Currently 20-2 and 11-0 in Region 7-AAA, the Buford girls basketball team has proven perhaps even tougher to defeat than last season's supremely-skilled Lady Wolves squad, sprinting to Region 7-AAA's No. 1 seed while winning league games by an average of 60-38.

"We wanted to show that this is a great team," said Dambach, a senior guard. "We may not be as talented as last year's team, but we work so well together -- and talent only takes you so far."

Indeed, the Lady Wolves watched last year's team that included a number of collegiate-bound standouts fall in the state quarterfinals to eventual champion St. Pius. From that experience the group -- which features a nucleus of players that have played together since middle school -- determined that they would not let anything happen -- at least within their control -- to derail the 2013-14 campaign.

"We're going to focus on defending, rebounding and playing hard every game," Dambach said. "Last year we could give the ball certain people and they could score from anywhere. This year we have to play as a team."

"That means diving on the floor for loose balls and not letting anyone out-work us," Anderson said.

It is that commitment to effort -- allied with a deep unity -- that coach Gene Durden says has paved the way for such an impressive season.

"They're really motivated to prove they can do it as a team," Durden said. "We've really gotten back to the style of basketball we want Buford to play. These kids know their roles and play well together, and they take a lot of pride in the fact that they have all bought in together -- and have seen success from that."

The Lady Wolves have tasted defeat just twice this season, though they admit that it actually helped that one of those occasions came in the season-opener in a 54-51 setback to Morgan County.

"That just reinforced how hard we have to work," Dambach said. "We stepped it up even more after that game, and we really put it together. I think we even did better than we expected."

Buford reeled off 18 straight wins after the Morgan County defeat and have only gotten better each week. In fact Buford's players don't even acknowledge when they are beaten -- at least it sure seemed that way in their Jan. 21 47-45 win over Banks County in which the Lady Wolves overcame a 17-point deficit to claim victory. The season has also included comeback wins over Columbia and Southwest Atlanta Christian.

"That was a gut check game, and we need things like that; all good teams do," Anderson said. "The main thing is just not to quit even when fall behind big. You just keep your head down and keep fighting."

Most teams that Buford has played this season simply fight to keep up with the Lady Wolves' breakneck pace.

Utilizing a full-court press and fast-break attack, Buford does its best to force mistakes on its opponents.

"We want to make people uncomfortable with the speed of the game," Durden said. "We're able to control the pace of the game for the most of the part. Though we can also slow it down and defend well in the half-court if we need to."

And just because the Lady Wolves don't feature the plethora of highly-touted players that dotted their more recent rosters, make no mistake, there is still plenty of ability at Durden's disposal.

Anderson, a junior, will play for N.C. State at the next level and features the ability to shoot from long range as well as lead the team from the point, pressing the tempo and scoring in transition.

"At the start of the year we sat her down and told her she would be playing a different role for us this year," Durden said. "Last year she could just sit outside and shoot the 3-pointer. But this year we needed more, and she's providing that."

Durden also points to an 11-player strong senior class that features a mix of athleticism, size and -- most importantly -- determination.

"A lot of these kids didn't play very much until this year, but they stuck with the program and have returned Buford basketball to the style its accustomed," Durden said.

That unit includes Dambach -- whom Durden calls "a true leader" -- Horrocks -- a 6-foot-5 post capable of playing inside or stepping outside and hitting 15-foot jump shots Caitlyn Dawkins -- playing the role of "spark" -- and Ashley Kroeger -- who is returning from a broken hand.

Meanwhile, junior Corey Staples is one of the fastest players in northeast Georgia, one that gives the Lady Wolves an explosive presence in the full-court.

It is also a group that has found a true chemistry and dynamic that has allowed it to elevate as a unit.

"This year we've got it on track as a team, and we're a true team," Dambach said.

"And we know we can reach all of our goals because of that," Anderson said.

And if you want proof just keep watching -- this Buford squad is quite happy to provide it.
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