Thursday May 26th, 2016 10:42AM

Class AAA boys championship: Buford no match for Brown, Bulldogs

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter
MACON -- It was touted as one of the best matchups of the GHSA state finals.

Instead, Morgan County's Tookie Brown turned it into his own personal playground and highlight reel.

The junior Mississippi State-commit poured in 36 points on 3-pointers, layups, dunks, and jumpers and led the Bulldogs to their first-ever basketball state title with a 69-45 blowout of Buford in the Class AAA finals Saturday at the Macon Coliseum.

The two teams had split a pair of games during the regular season with each winning at home and it looked even on paper. The problem for the Wolves was they had no answer for Brown in the biggest game of the season.

Buford coach Allen Whitehart and the Wolves said during the week stopping Brown was priority No. 1.

"He's a great player and you have to stop him to beat them. He set the tone early and we just couldn't find an answer," Whitehart said.

Brown opened the scoring with a free throw and then scored eight straight points at one point as the Bulldogs (26-5) ran out to a 13-2 lead. Buford called a timeout to try and slow down Morgan County but Brown kept the pressure on as they pushed the lead to 20-5 by the end of the first quarter.

Buford never recovered.

"We wanted to come out of the gate quick," Morgan County coach Charlemagne Gibbons said. "We got beat in the playoffs last year because we didn't start fast. That has been our motto this year.

"I think we were able to take some air out of them early but we knew they could come back so we just tried to kept going at them. Tookie played a tremendous game. If you've never seen Tookie play, that was a typical Tookie game."

Brown certainly appeared to be in the zone in the first half, finishing with 24 points, outscoring the entire Wolves by himself in the first 16 minutes. He added five rebounds, four assists, and two steals and shut down Buford's D'Marcus Simonds on the defensive end holding the Region 7-AAA Player of the Year to just two first half points.

"I just wanted to come out and help our team make a statement that we were the best team," Brown said. "It wasn't just me. We played well as a team. And the crowd was a big factor for us."

The Macon Coliseum was virtually full with three-fourths wearing the red-and-black of the Bulldogs.

Turnovers were the problem for Buford early. The Wolves led 2-1 on a Keyton Gibson basket but followed with eight turnovers in the first quarter, including five on five straight possessions.

Buford, which finished the year 28-6, did a better job of taking care of the ball in the second quarter but Brown carved up the Wolves' defense. Brown hit driving layups, dished off two alley-oop passes to Tennessee-signee C.J. Thurman for thunderous dunks, and added the final points of the half on a 3-pointer for a 37-18 lead.

"They took it to us early and I do think the crowd and the start kind of rattled us," Whitehart said. "But we did a lot of good things to get here and that's what we were telling them after the game. Not everything ends up the way you imagine. We'll get back up and get ready for next year."

The Bulldogs did not let up in the second half pulling away for leads of 50-24 and 63-37.

Brown added seven rebounds, six assists, and five steals. Thurman had 15 points, six rebounds, and three steals for the Bulldogs. Morgan County forced 23 Buford turnovers, including 14 steals.

Buford senior Rakim Lubin, a Connecticut-signee, closed out his high school career with 12 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks. Senior Justin Edwards had eight points in his final game, and Simonds and Montgomery VanGorder each added six points for the Wolves.
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