The quieting effect of a senior-laden team made all the difference for the Buford boys on Friday night when things got tight. And it didn’t hurt that two of the team’s 11 seniors just happened to be Marcus Watson and Eric Coleman.
Those two combined for 58 points to lead the No. 1-ranked Wolves to a 76-69 win over No. 5 Fayette County and win the Class AAAAA championship for the second straight year.
Watson, who has signed with Oklahoma State, scored 33 points, including four 3-pointers, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Coleman scored 25 points with nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
“Marcus and Eric stepped up big on the offensive end,” Buford coach Eddie Martin said. “They just played off each other.”
Watson and Coleman needed to come up big after Fayette County successfully took away Buford guard Donnell Nixon, the Region 8 Player of the Year. Nixon scored eight points, but had six rebounds.
“They did a great job taking Donnell out of the game,” Martin said. “What we didn’t do was start panicking.”
Fayette County (26-6) stayed in the game with a good shooting night. The Tigers made nine 3-pointers, six of them from Ricky Knight Jr., who scored 26, and three from JeKobe Coleman, who scored 15. Josh Dupree added 12 points and seven assists and Terrell Bradley scored 10.
Buford scored the first six points of the game and led 14-8 after one quarter. The game was tied at 19-19 when Fayette County’s Dupree made a jumper at the 5:33 mark.
But Buford kept plugging away and expanded its lead to 12 points after Fayette County received two technical fouls – one on head coach Andre Flynn, the other on an assistant – with 1:14 left. Buford’s Nixon made 3 of 4 from the line and Watson drained a trey to give the Wolves a 39-27 lead. Buford led 39-31 at halftime.
Fayette County tied the game at 46-46 in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Ricky Knight and again at 53-53 when Terrell Bradley made a pair of free throws, which is where the period ended.
The key stretch came in the middle of the fourth quarter with the score tied 58-58. Watson made two free throws, then swished a 3-pointer. Coleman added a three-point play to extend the lead to 66-58 with 3:40 left. Fayette County never got closer than four.
“That group can shoot the basketball,” Martin said. “And for our group to stay in it when they came back and tied it up was big time for us.”
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