The annual rivalry between the Buford Lady Wolves and the Wesleyan Lady Wolves lived up to everyone's expectations as the two basketball powerhouses battled this past Saturday night in the Wesleyan Girls Basketball Showcase. The battle between these two programs has produced many exciting games in past years and this years game continued the tradition.
See the Gwinnett Daily Post Article below for the lowdown on this showdown.
With the Buford Wolves leading by one point in overtime, the Wesleyan Wolves fired off four shots on one possession, three from point-blank range, but walked down to the other end of the court empty handed. And after knocking down three clutch free-throw attempts — two from Kya Styles and one from Tory Ozment — Buford held on to win 48-46 over a team that had beaten them two times in a row.
Buford (5-0) never trailed in the game until an Amaya Register three-pointer put Wesleyan (4-1) in front on its first possession of overtime, but she missed her next four shots in the period, allowing Buford to hang on. Ozment scored Buford’s only two made shots in overtime, the first on a layup to open the period, and a jump shot from the free-throw line to put her team back out in front for good moments later.
The two teams both scored 15 field goals, and Wesleyan shot a better percentage from the field — 28 percent to Buford’s 23 percent – but the numbers were deceiving. Buford led by as much as 13 points in the fourth quarter, only to watch it disappear in a matter of five minutes. But despite not finishing the game out like they wanted too, Buford head coach Gene Durden was thrilled to come away with a win over a great Wesleyan team.
“Any time you play a great program, and you play the caliber of team that Wesleyan is, and you get to go into overtime and win, you’ve got to take a lot of of this game,” Durden said. “I was telling the kids after the game that it was a great learning experience as far as us not handling some situations right with the senior leadership that we have. So, this right here is why we play good programs for us to get better here, and down the line.”
Ebony Grant led Buford in scoring with 11 points while Tate Walters added 10 on three 3-pointers. Ozment scored nine, and Audrey Weiner scored eight, respectively. Register finished with a game-high 18 points for Wesleyan, and Avyonce Carter scored 11 in the loss.
It was a disastrous opening first quarter for Wesleyan. The team shot just 1 of 8 from the field which allowed Buford to jump out to a 15-4 lead at quarters end. Buford used three 3-pointers to help build the lead despite missing 16 shots in the first quarter. Wesleyan cut into the Buford lead ever so slightly by halftime after making one more shot from the field than the away team, but still trailed by nine, 20-11 at the break.
Durden credited his team’s dominance defensively in the first half to contesting shots, but also being able to grab rebounds both defensively and offensively to keep the ball out of the hands of the talented Wesleyan players. “We always play really good defense,” Durden said. “We’ve got some kids that really take pride in defending, and I thought that especially early on, we made it really hard on them (Wesleyan). We contested shots, and did a really good job on the boards.”
The Buford lead was cut to a little as five points on two separate occasions in the third quarter, but a nice run to close out the period saw its lead right back at nine points, 29-20 heading into the fourth. With the lead now at 10 points for Buford, Walters knocked down her third three-pointer of the game to put her team up by 13 with 5:18 remaining in the game. It was Buford’s biggest lead of the game, but it didn’t last for long. Back-to-back three pointers from Register and Callie Weaver cut the lead to 40-39 with 1:11 remaining, but a free throw by Buford put them up by two seconds later.
After a timeout by Wesleyan, A.C. Carter drove into the paint and was fouled with 34 seconds remaining. She nearly converted the basket, but instead, had to settle for two free-throw attempts with a chance to tie the game up at 41-all. And that she did.
Ozment had chance to win the game for Buford with a three-pointer from the corner with four seconds remaining, but the ball hit off of the rim to send the game into overtime. Ozment redeemed herself on Buford’s opening possession of OT and scored a layup to put her team up 43-41. But the hot shooting of Register put Wesleyan out in front for the first time in the game on a three-pointer, 44-43. Ozment followed that with a steal and a basket to regain the lead for Buford 45-44, and the away team never surrendered the lead from that point on to win.
“This is going to do nothing but make us better,” Durden said. “I thought our press did a great job tonight,” Durden said. “But what I didn’t think was good was we would get the turnovers, and next thing you know, we weren’t finishing our shots. We missed a ton of layups. But we will go back and work on finishing layups, and when we do that, we’ll be in good shape.”