“We’ve got to make sure we get really good in three areas,” Durden said. “We’ve got to be really good in our halfcourt defense, really good in our halfcourt offense and execution, and in rebounding. We did some of those things. Some things we didn’t do. In first-round games a lot of times it’s more about what we do than what our opponents do.”
Buford may be playing in the state’s highest classification for the first year, but the Wolves’ style remains unaltered. Durden sends wave after wave of girls – most of them only 5-foot-8 or so – to attack the basket, get after the ball and terrorize the opposition with its relentless defense. The result is an unabated stream of turnovers and easy shots. Durden is hopeful that the end result is the school’s seven state championship, the last one coming in 2018.
“Press and pressure in the state playoffs is a good tool,” Durden said.”But you can’t rely on it all the time. It’s more of a tempo control, more of a situation of wearing people down and helping us in transition. It’s a part of our plan, but it’s not the total plan.”
Buford was led by Ava Grace Watson, a smooth 5-foot-8 junior who already has offers from the likes of Georgia, Tennessee and most national programs. Watson plays hard and uses her quickness to get to the basket. She’s also unafraid to shoot the 3-pointer and scored 16 on Tuesday.
The Wolves also got 15 points from Betty Nguyen and had 13 different players score.
Duluth was able to hang around for about three minutes and trailed only 8-7 when Durden called a timeout to get things straight. The intensity was there from the start, but the Wolves were missing too many short-range shots. Another timeout a moment later and the Wolves were off and running. Buford led 27-9 after the first quarter and Duluth did not the personnel to make any sort of run.
“We were just going through the motions,” Durden said. “I told them we weren’t doing what we needed to do to win a state championship and that we needed to increase our intensity and increase taking care of the ball and taking good shots. Message delivered … and they got some more messages at halftime.”
Buford continued its assault in the second quarter and outscored the Wildcats 30-0 for a 57-9 halftime lead. Duluth had been outscored 49-2 since the game was competitive. Duluth didn’t score again until 5:09 in the third quarter.