BUFORD — When last we left the Buford and Cedar Shoals boys basketball teams, the pair were duking it out for the Class AAAAA state title at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens.
There was no such high-stakes on Tuesday night at The Buford Arena, but Buford’s 74-48 win to open Region 8-AAAAA play gave the Wolves the opening move in trying to reclaim the top seed in the region tournament in February.
Gone were Phlandrous Fleming and Quenjarvis Hall for the Jaguars from last season. Meanwhile, the Wolves returned the bulk of their title team, including junior Marcus Watson, who had a double-double in the first half as part of a 24-point, 15-rebound effort.
Buford coach Eddie Martin, however, was quick to dismiss any early talk of titles or seedings.
“It’s always good to get that first region win, especially against a team you know is going to be in the middle of things,” Martin said. “But it’s still very early in the season so right now we’re not thinking about anything other than just taking it one at a time.”
Buford (4-2, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA) trailed 6-5 early but used a 17-0 run to close out the first quarter to take control and extended it to 28-6 on a Watson dunk in the second quarter. Cedar Shoals (2-4, 0-1) got within 34-20 with a 7-0 run but the Wolves took a 37-22 lead into halftime.
The Jaguars graduated nine seniors from last year’s state runner-up team and are considerably younger with 10 juuniors or sophomores seeing minutes. And behind sophomore Athens Christian transfer Quincy Canty, they stormed out of the third quarter to cut the lead to 48-39 with 2:45 left in the period.
“They’re not the same team they were last year but they never quit and battled back,” Martin said. “We knew they would probably make a run but I thought we responded well.”
Senior Alex Jones, who just returned over the weekend to see his first action after rehabbing from an off-season injury, swiped a pair of steals to help spark a decisive 23-4 run in the third and fourth quarters. The Jaguars did not help themselves committing six turnovers and missing seven consecutive shots during the big Buford run.
Junior guard Donell Nixon picked up the slack in place of Jones with 15 points. Jones finished with 11 points and David Viti added nine for the Wolves.
“It was good to get Alex out there and see more minutes,” Martin said. “We’re bringing him back slowly. Donell played very well as well.
“Again, it’s still early and this is just one game right now.”
Buford will travel to Loganville on Friday in another Region 8-AAAAA battle.
BUFORD GIRLS 65,
CEDAR SHOALS 28
Buford opened the game with a 13-0 run and never looked back in rolling to the big win in both teams’ Region 8-AAAAA opener.
It was the first home game of the season for the Lady Wolves (6-0, 1-0 Region 8-AAAAA) who will travel to Loganville (6-2, 1-0) on Friday in an early battle for first place.
The Buford press overwhelmed the Lady Jaguars (3-3, 0-1) forcing over two dozen turnovers. Cedar Shoals did not score its first points until four minutes into the contest to trim the lead to 13-3.
The Lady Wolves responded to that basket with a 14-0 run to close out the first quarter for a 27-3 lead and effectively put the game away. They took a 42-9 advantage into the halftime and the second half was played with 6-minute clocks in the third and fourth quarters.
Buford coach Gene Durden, who has been managing without two starters in the first weeks of the season, said they are still progressing as a group.
“We’re playing 10 right now to evaluate what we have,” Durden said. “We always like to come out fast and we did a good of that. We’re playing pretty well right now considering. But you don’t want to peak at this time of the year and we still have a lot work on.”
Tory Ozment and Tate Walters led 10 Buford players in scoring with 9 points each. Casey Jones, Audrey Weiner, and Preston Reid added 8 points apiece for the Lady Wolves.
Genesis Crawley led Cedar Shoals with 8 points.