Thursday September 21st, 2017 7:08PM

Championship preview: Two marquee match-ups on tap for AAA finale (VIDEO)

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
  Contact Editor
MACON -- Rarely has a championship game feature so many tantalizing story lines -- and this year that's true about both the Class AAA boys and girls title tilts set for today in Macon.

Starting at approximately 3 p.m., the Buford girls will take on defending Class AAA champ St. Pius -- the team that knocked the Lady Wolves from playoff contention last season. And revenge may be the least of the various factors at play.

Meanwhile, at approximately 4:45 p.m., the Buford boys will take on Morgan County in a title showdown that will feature two teams playing for the third time this season. Neither program has won a state title, yet both feature the kind of talent that takes a back seat to no program at any classification.

With that in mind here's a look at some of the key points at play in both Class AAA championships today in Macon...

(NOTE: To watch a video preview of each game, simply click "play" in the box to the right.)


WHEN: 3 p.m. today

WHERE: Macon Centreplex, Macon

RADIO: WDUN AM 550/102.9 FM

BUFORD (30-2) -- Camille Anderson, Jr. Wing, 14 points per game (ppg), 3 rebounds per game (rpg), 3 assists per game (apg), NC State signee

-- Bree Horrocks, 6-foot-5 Sr. Post, 10 ppg, 8 rpg, Purdue signee

-- Corey Staples, Jr. Wing, 9 ppg, 4 rpg, 2 apg

ST. PIUS (29-3) -- Asia Durr, Jr. Guard, 24.5 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.5 steals per game (spg)

-- Jasmine Carter, Sr. Guard, 13.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.5 spg

-- Miah Allen, Jr. Wing, 3.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg

Repeat champions guaranteed: Whichever team wins this year's girls crown will be repeating a feat already well known within their own programs. The Buford girls won three straight Class AA championships 2009-2011, while the St. Pius girls won Class last year's Class AAA crown, as well as Class AAAA titles in 2004, 2006-07.

Lady Wolves right the ship: Buford returned just two starters and three real contributors from last year's team that lost to St. Pius in the Class AAA quarterfinals. When you consider that coach Gene Durden rotates 10-12 players per game it shows just how impressive a reloading job the Lady Wolves did.

To press or not to press?: The Lady Wolves defensive press has bewildered most foes this season, forcing turnovers in bunches and yielding plenty of fast-break baskets. But Buford can also play lock-down half-court defense, and that may be the better ploy against a Lady Golden Lions team that can shred the press via Durr and Carter. Don't expect the Lady Wolves to totally abandon the press today, but don't expect Buford to rely on the press either. It will be interesting to see how coach Gene Durden shapes his team's defense to deal with Durr -- who scored 32 points in last year's quarterfinal match-up between the two foes.

St. Pius eying least deadly poison: Durden isn't the only one facing a quandry today, Lady Golden Lions coach Kyle Snipes must also decide whether to focus his team's defensive efforts on Horrocks in the post and Anderson on the wing -- or try to stop everyone else. The Lady Wolves rotate 10-12 players regularly, and all of them can score when called upon. That may be necessary today, depending on which poison St. Pius picks to defend.


WHEN: 4:45 p.m. today

WHERE: Macon Centreplex, Macon

RADIO: WDUN AM 550/102.9 FM

BUFORD (28-5) -- Rakim Lubin, 6-foot-8 Sr. Forward, UConn signee

-- D'Marcus Simonds, 6-foot-4 So. Wing

-- Matt McMorris, Sr. Point Guard

MORGAN COUNTY (25-5) -- Tookie Brown, Jr. Guard, 25.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.6 apg, Mississippi State signee

-- Jailyn Ingram, So. Forward, 16.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.3 apg

-- C.J. Turman, 6-foot-8 Sr. Center, 12.1 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 4.7 blocks per game, Tennessee signee

New champion assured: Neither team has ever won a state championship, so the winner today will be making history. The closest the Wolves have come are four runner-up finishes, including 2011, 2001, 1996 and 1980. The Bulldogs were runners-up in 1986 and 1990.

Which momentum is stronger?: Buford enters today's contest with 22 straight victories under its belt; Morgan County has won 17 straight. Both winning streaks began in early January, and while each team has been tested during those runs, it's a good bet that it will take something mammoth to halt those winning ways.

Battle of the big men: Rarely are high school basketball fans treated to a true showdown of big men, especially two 6-foot-8 dominators. Today fans should get a rare treat, as future UConn player Lubin faces off with future Tennessee player Turman. Not only are they tall, both have the bulk to bang inside, as well as the athleticism to sprint up and down the court. Lubin has been his team's stat leader all season, while Turman has been a defensive force with the ability to put up points in bunches. The two also know each other well after battling twice already this season. Excuse us while we mop up the drool in anticipation of this battle.

Who is the 'X-factor?': The stars will be everywhere on the floor today -- Brown, Turman and Ingram; Lubin and Simonds -- but you can bet there will be another player that makes a difference today. Certainly all the standouts have the ability to take over the contest, which means it could be the difference of one other playing stepping up that clinches the victory. Buford features plenty, including McMorris, guard Taylor Mills (a standout 3-point shooter), forward Keyton Gibson, wing Montgomery VanGorder, guard Justin Edwards and power forward Isaac Nauta. Morgan County also has strong role players, including Davon Gibbs (4.6 ppg), who excelled in last week's semifinal win and sixth man Devorious Brown (3.8 ppg).
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