MACON -- Buford looked to have St. Pius right where it wanted on Saturday.
Asia Durr was having none of it.
After watching her team open the game 0-for-12 from the floor and in a 15-1 hole, the junior standout reeled off a game-high 24 points over the next three quarters -- just enough to spark her team to its second straight state championship courtesy a 48-45 victory in Macon.
"They wanted us bad, but we had to come out and kind of get the cobwebs out," Durr said. "We just had to stay confident."
Durr and fellow guard Jasmine Carter did just that combining for 35 of the Golden Lions points -- helping St. Pius to overtake Buford's outstanding start. The duo also helped Pius hold on down the stretch courtesy free throw shooting -- sinking 13 of 18 attempts in the second half, including an 8-for-8 stretch in the fourth quarter.
"I've been privileged enough to coach some great players, and I know when you've you got a horse like that, you've gotta' ride them," Lady Wolves coach Gene Durden said. "We came out with a solid gameplan, and I knew they might have a rough first quarter shooting being in the Coliseum. But we started giving them way too many open looks, and they took advantage of it."
Buford was in cruise control after the first quarter, soaring to a quick lead on baskets from Tara Dambach and 3-pointers from Bree Horrocks and Camille Anderson. But St. Pius (30-3) charged back into the game in the second quarter on the strength of Durr and Carter.
Miah Allen also buried a 3-pointer before the half, while Durr sank two treys of her own to give St. Pius a 23-21 advantage it would not relinquish.
It wasn't from a lack of effort on Buford's part.
The Lady Wolves (30-3) fought back from a 45-38 deficit with 2:04 remaining, pulling within 47-45 on Horrocks' jumper with :14.2 left to play. But Buford could not force a turnover from the Golden Lions and watched a shot from Horrocks rim out inside the final three seconds to seal the outcome.
"We have some inexperience on this team, and it showed at times tonight," Durden said. "We made some turnovers we shouldn't have, but one play doesn't win it and one play doesn't lose it."
Certainly one play might have helped Buford's cause, however, as Anderson launched a 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter that bounced around the rim and in. Yet the attempt was ruled late and kept the Lady Wolves lead at 15-3 after the first quarter.
"I told the girls I didn't want to see any tears after this one," Durden said. "I know they're disappointed, but they played a tremendous season, and they've got nothing to hang their heads about."
Anderson finished with 14 points for Buford, while Horrocks added 13. Corey Staples also added seven.
"We had a great run this season, and the girls worked so hard... that's what it's all about," Durden said.
That great run looked set to continue in the first quarter on Saturday when the Lady Wolves held Pius without a basket until :20 remained in the first quarter.
Dropping into a zone defense that forced the Lady Golden Lions to the perimeter, Buford looked as though the week-long layoff from its semifinal win had little effect.
Buford's offense also found its way to the basket. Starting with five straight points from Dambach, Buford surged to a 12-0 lead that grew to 15-1 on Anderson's 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in the opening quarter.
St. Pius finally began to find its range in the second quarter, as Miah Allen and Asia Durr combined to drain four 3-pointers. Allen's trey at the start of the period sparked a 10-2 Golden Lions run. And while Horrocks and Taylor Ozment answered for the Lady Wolves, Durr sank two more 3-pointers at the close of the half to overtake Buford for a 23-21 advantage.
And while the Golden Lions shot just 28 percent for the half, Buford's offense suffered in the second quarter, and the Lady Wolves managed just 35 percent for the half.
St. Pius did little to improve that stat after the interval, shooting 33 percent in the third and fourth quarters. But the Golden Lions free throw shooting -- St. Pius attempted 12 more foul shots than did Buford -- and the Lady Wolves own cold shooting -- Buford finished the game 37 percent from the floor -- helped seal the outcome.
Buford pulled out of its zone defense late, forcing three turnovers inside the final 2:30, but it wasn't enough to turn the tide.
"We've got a lot of underclassmen coming back, and hopefully we can stay healthy and have a shot at this thing again next year," Durden said.