Sunday October 22nd, 2017 6:08AM

Class AAA playoffs: Lady Wolves survive upset bid

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
BUFORD -- Decatur wanted to make Buford play ugly in the two teams' Class AAA second round playoff matchup Monday night.

The Lady Bulldogs got their wish forcing nearly 20 turnovers and holding Buford to 2-for-14 on 3-pointers. The problem was, Buford still came out looking like Cinderella.

The Lady Wolves overcame some early timid play and a tough night shooting to pull away in the fourth quarter for a tougher-than-the-score-indicates 41-28 victory at the Buford gym.

"That's what (Decatur) wanted to do but I think it may have worked in reverse for us," Buford coach Gene Durden said. "It definitely wasn't pretty but we made some stops when we need them and hit some free throws at the end."

Decatur tied the score at 27 on a Jayla Morrow free throw with 4:07 left following a technical foul on the Lady Wolves' Bree Horrocks and the momentum began to swing in the Lady Bulldogs' favor.

But Buford would force a turnover on the inbounds play and Horrocks would score on a nice pass from Camille Anderson to retake the lead 29-27 and that fueled a 14-1 run over the final 3:22 to seal a trip into the Elite 8 on Wednesday.

Buford (28-2) next will play host to Woodward Academy, which nipped North Hall 64-62, in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Tip-off time has yet to be determined.

Anderson, the Region 7-AAA Player of the Year, dished out four assists on the night to go with a game-high 16 points, including a big 3-pointer to open the second half to tie game at 19.

Durden felt his older but inexperienced team was playing more not to win than trying to seize the moment. Anderson's shot helped turn the tide.

"There was a feeling of relief from the girls after that," Durden said. "I think they were a little rattled in the second quarter and played way too passive. We talked (at halftime) about being more aggressive. That was a big shot."

Anderson, a junior, said they just wanted to make sure it wouldn't be the seniors' last hurrah.

"We didn't want them to go out the way we were playing," she said. "I wasn't thinking about coming out shooting. I just kind of shoot when I'm open. I was open and it went in. But I think that kind of got everyone going."

Decatur (22-8) had chances, especially in the second half. The Lady Bulldogs led 19-16 at halftime and took a 21-19 lead on two Morrow free throws. They would take a 23-21 lead on a Kayla Thomas basket with 5:20 left in the third quarter.

But Buford would close out the quarter with a 6-0 run and Decatur would miss eight straight shots, including four 3-pointers, in the final four minutes. The Lady Bulldogs opened the fourth quarter with a 4-0 run, including the free throws on the Horrocks technical, to tie the game at 27 but Buford took control with its defense.

The Lady Wolves held Decatur without a field goal the rest of the way and used a 7-0 run following the technical to pull away. Decatur would miss 9-of-11 free throws in the second half and finished the game 2-for-22 on 3-pointers. They were 7-of-22 at the free throw line.

Conversely, Buford sank 15-of-21 from the free throw line for the game.

"We knew it would be the kind of game it was," Durden said. "I'm proud of how the girls fought back. We stepped up defensively and hit free throws."

Things started well for Buford as the Lady Wolves used their usual tenacious defense to hold Decatur to just one 3-point field goal while taking an 8-3 lead after the first quarter. But the Lady Bulldogs beat Buford at its own game in the second quarter.

Decatur forced five Buford turnovers and used that spark to go on a 12-0 run to grab a 17-12 lead midway through the quarter. The Lady Bulldogs held Buford to just two field goals in the period while Morrow drained back-to-back 3-pointers to cap the run. Morrow, who finished with 10 first half points, would give Decatur a 19-16 halftime lead with a steal and layup with 42 seconds left.

Buford was cold offensively missing all eight of its first half 3-point attempts. Horrocks helped them build their early lead with four points, four rebounds, and two blocks in the first quarter, but was held scoreless in the second quarter.

Chandler Hall had a nice game for Buford with 10 points, six rebounds, and two assists. Horrocks finished with eight points, nine rebounds, and three blocks for the Lady Wolves.

Morrow poured in 15 points to go with two assists and three steals to lead Decatur. Thomas finished with nine points and seven rebounds for the Lady Bulldogs.

NOTES: The Buford girls ran their record to a perfect 17-0 at home this season...The Lady Wolves pushed their win streak to 10...Buford advanced to the the quarterfinals for the eighth straight season.
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