Tuesday September 19th, 2017 4:26PM

Class AAA semifinals: Lubin, Simonds lead Wolves to title game

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
  Contact Editor
MILLEDGEVILLE -- Comes the moment, comes the man -- or in Buford's case, the men.

Rakim Lubin and D'Marcus Simonds have been those men all season for the Wolves, but Saturday's Class AAA semifinals proved something a bit special even for them.

Lubin scored a season-high 37 points, including 13 straight in a pivotal fourth quarter run, while Simonds added 30 to help lead the Wolves to a 92-76 victory over Callaway and into the state championship game next week in Macon.

"Us together I feel like we're (NBA stars) LeBron (James) and (Dwyane) Wade," Lubin said. "We really click. But it really was about us playing together as a team tonight and sticking together."

The duo helped Buford (27-5) set up a showdown with Morgan County at 4:45 p.m. March 8 at the Macon Centreplex. The two teams split a pair of games during the regular season.

And you can bet the Bulldogs will be fully aware of Lubin and Simonds -- and if they play like Saturday, it may not matter.

"They're like Batman and Robin, except they can both be Batman," Buford coach Allen Whitehart said. "The other guys follow their lead, and when they're like that, we're hard to beat."

The duo fired Buford to a dominant start in the semifinal, while Lubin ensured there would be no Callaway comeback, owning the fourth quarter with 19 points over the final eight minutes -- and the Wolves needed almost every one of them to notch their 23rd straight win.

The Cavaliers (22-7) trimmed a 22-point first half deficit to single digits in both the third and fourth quarters, including 73-64 on a Braylon Sanders 3-pointer with 4:35 left to play.

Lubin was in no mood to let Callaway any closer, however, scoring seven straight points, including a thunderous dunk for a 80-64 advantage that the Cavaliers never seriously challenged the rest of the way.

"To tell you the truth it was kind of scary for a little while," Lubin said of the fourth quarter. "We knew they were a good team and liked to run, and we knew we needed to play well to pull out the win."

For Buford, that meant getting the ball to their big man.

"I haven't seen Rakim as locked in as he has been over the past three weeks," Whitehart said. "I just kept yelling let the big fella' eat."

Lubin and Simonds also made meals of the glass, snagging 12 and 13 rebounds, respectively, as Buford out-rebounded the Cavaliers 43-28. Lubin also threw in four blocks and Simonds three.

"They're both great players, and they came into this game so loose -- the whole team did," Whitehart said. "I'm all nervous and uptight, and today they came in acting like fools."

Loose certainly but there was no joke about the way Buford opened the contest.

The Wolves went to their strength from the opening tip, feeding Lubin in the post, as the senior scored four quick points to help spark a 14-2 Wolves run. Simonds also starred early, burying a 3-pointer in the first quarter, as Buford built a 17-8 lead -- out-rebounding Callaway 13-5 in the first quarter.

It was a theme that held throughout the first half, as Buford grabbed 28 rebounds over the first 16 minutes.

"We really separated ourselves over that first quarter and a half," Whitehart said. "That really set the tone for us."

Simonds continued his scoring pace in the second quarter, as the guard drained two more treys for a 30-11 advantage. The Cavaliers finally found some offensive rhythm as the half waned, Dre Martin scoring back-to-back baskets. But even Quadarius Patillo's 3-pointer with five seconds remaining only trimmed the Wolves advantage to 37-21.

The Cavaliers continued to battle in the second half, as Martin and Sanders led the way with 22 and 13 points, respectively. Terry Godwin also added 12. But it was not enough to derail Buford, which got back to the championship game for the first time since finishing as Class AA runner-up in 2011.

"We know that the mission isn't over," Lubin said. "We've been building momentum since we started our winning streak. But we've got one more game to go."
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