Friday October 20th, 2017 3:44PM

Class AAA playoffs: Defense propels Lady Wolves into Final Four

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
  Contact Editor
BUFORD -- If beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, the defensive picture that the Buford girls painted Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA playoffs against Woodward Academy was a genuine masterpiece to coach Gene Durden.

The Lady Wolves held the Lady War Eagles to just four first quarter points and forced 32 turnovers, 16 in the first half, en route to an easier-than-expected 62-45 victory at the Buford gym.

Buford now will take on Pike County, which was a 59-53 winner over Johnson-Savannah, on Saturday at Georgia College in Milledgeville in the Class AAA Final Four. No time has been announced for tip-off of that game as of Wednesday night.

Woodward Academy (20-11) shot less than 20 percent for the game and had trouble from the opening tip with Buford's aggressive trapping zone. Buford piled up an astounding 19 steals by nine different players for the game.

The Lady War Eagles' defense forced 21 Buford turnovers, but only six after halftime, while Camille Anderson and Corey Staples combined for six steals to offset their own mistakes.

From a fans perspective, it wasn't what many would call a pretty game. Durden just smiled.

"We want to make teams play at speeds they're uncomfortable with," he said. "We have just survived on our defense this year and I thought we did a great job tonight. It looked real good to me."

With Staples and Anderson wreaking havoc on the defensive end, Purdue-signee Bree Horrocks was the primary beneficiary pouring in a season-high 24 points to go with seven rebounds and four steals of her own. The 6-foot-4 senior was all smiles to know she finally will be making her first trip to the Final Four.

"I wasn't allowed to travel with the varsity as a freshman so this is just amazing," she said. "It's hard to describe how it feels. I'm just elated."

Woodward Academy had no answer inside for Horrocks, who scored on jumpers, layups, and offensive stickbacks. It was the kind of game Durden has known was in her all season.

"She did a great job of being in the right spots, posting up people, and making shots," he said. "Easily her best game of the season."

Horrocks agreed.

"I know I struggle sometimes with being aggressive and I'm just trying to listen to the coaches and do what they say," she said. "I was pleased with how I played tonight. But as a team we're just having fun and that makes it easier."

Buford (29-2) never trailed and built an 11-4 lead after the first quarter. The Lady Wolves led by as many as 20 points late in the second quarter and forced as many Woodward turnovers (16) as the Lady War Eagles could muster points as Buford took a 32-16 lead into halftime.

Woodward Academy got as close as 13 twice in the third quarter, at 34-21 on a 3-pointer by Madison McGarrah, and 36-23 on a basket by Ashari Hankerson, but Buford put the game out of reach forcing five straight turnovers on two steals by Staples, two by Anderson, and one by Horrocks to run out to a 60-35 lead.

Woodward Academy would only get as close as the final score the rest of the way.

Anderson would finish with 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and one steal for Buford. Staples finished with six points, three assists, and five steals in her first action in more than two weeks. Taylor Ozment had four assists and five steals for the Lady Wolves.

Mercer-signee Alex Williams, who single-handedly knocked out North Hall on Monday with 28 points, was held to just 12 points by the Lady Wolves. She had seven rebounds and four steals. Cheyenne Arthur had nine points for the Lady War Eagles.

-- NOTES: Buford finished the season a perfect 19-0 at home. ... Woodward Academy had averaged 68.5 ppg in its last eight games and was held 23 points under that average. ... Buford had allowed just 27.8 ppg over its last eight games. ... The Lady Wolves are back in the semifinals after a one year absence. Buford reached the finals in four consecutive years, 2009-12. The Lady Wolves won titles in 2009-11 and finished runner-up in 2012.
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