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Posted: Friday, March 7th 2014 at 1:58pm

Buford basketball ready to finish up incredible seasons on high notes (VIDEO)

By Morgan Lee Editor
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Buford's Rakim Lubin surges toward the hoop during a game played earlier this season. / photo: David McGregor
BUFORD -- Every championship hopeful faces a gut check at some point in its season.

For the Buford girls basketball team, that gut check came in the season opener -- and senior center Bree Horrocks remembers it well.

"Coach (Gene) Durden had us pretty convinced at the start of the season that we were good enough to win state. He told us he believed in us, and we believe everything he says," said Horrocks, whose Lady Wolves fell to Morgan County 54-51 to begin the 2013-14 campaign, "but I’m not going to lie, after the first game when we lost I was questioning how far we would make it."

That questions did not last. The Lady Wolves' belief, however, only grew stronger, and now they find themselves at the precipice of another state championship.

(NOTE: To watch a video feature with Buford's boys and girls basketball teams, click "play" in the box to the right.)

"It was just on the uphill since then, and there was no question about it," said Horrocks, who has helped her team to a Class AAA title game berth against defending champion St. Pius.

There aren't many questions left for the Buford boys either.

Currently riding a 22-game win streak, the Wolves are also just 24 hours removed from a title shot when they will battle Morgan County for the crown in Macon.

Yet while the Lady Wolves are hoping to reclaim a state championship after winning three straight 2009-2011 -- and finishing as runner-up in 2012 -- Buford's boys are gunning their first ever title.

"I think (winning a championship) would open a lot of doors," Wolves coach Allen Whitehart said. "It would finally put us on the map. If you look around here at Buford you that state championships are common, so if we can get one it would definitely get us a seat at the table."

To get it the Wolves will have to win their rubber match of the campaign against Morgan County -- the two foes split contests in the regular season, each winning at home -- and after falling short of the championship game in each of the last two years, Whitehart says there is no shortage of anticipation in the air.

"It’s real exciting. You get there once and you don’t know if you’re ever going to get back so the fact that we’re back only a couple of years later is really exciting,” said Whitehart, who glimpsed his team’s true potential in a loss – a 65-56 overtime decision to Class AAAAAA finalist Tift County. “Tift is extremely talented and you think maybe we could make a little noise. You don’t know how much but in the back of your mind you’re thinking maybe this much noise.”

It is a new noise for these Wolves, none of whom featured when Buford finished as Class AA runners-up in 2011.

“The kids from that last run are gone,” Whitehart said. “So for this group this is uncharted territory so I think they’re excited.”

Excited for sure -- but standout forward Rakim Lubin says he and his teammates must also be focused on the task at hand and not get caught up in the emotion of the moment.

“We’re trying to stay locked in. We can’t get over excited about being here,” said Lubin, a UConn signee. “We’ve still got to execute and do what we have to do to beat this team.”

Focus has not been much of a problem for the Wolves this season, certainly not since January when Buford began its win streak. And, as the Wolves showed in last week’s 92-76 semifinal win over Callaway, they may be hitting their peak at just the right time.

“We’re playing great right now,” Lubin said. “We’re playing the best we have all year. We’re clicking; we’re making the extra pass. We’re playing great right now as a family.”

No team understands what family means like the Buford girls.

Returning just two starters from last season’s quarterfinal squad and a plethora of new faces on the bench, the Lady Wolves determined to maximize their potential via hard work and unity.

“I’m so proud of them,” Lady Wolves coach Gene Durden said. “They’ve stayed through our program and been a huge part of a successful season. No doubt they want to show that it doesn’t take all the talent in the world, all it takes is hard work and believing in what we do to win a state championship.”

According to Horrocks it is a style that has come fairly easy to the Lady Wolves.

“This year it’s not a job, it’s something we want to do,” the Purdue-bound center said. “It is so much more fun because we’re all out here with our closest friends and we have a bond and chemistry.”

They also have depth and speed, which only augment a killer defense that has formed the bedrock of Buford’s playoff run -- one in which the Lady Wolves are winning by an average margin of 20.5 points. And while Horrocks and Camille Anderson are providing the bulk of the scoring, Horrocks says it is not necessary for this team’s success.

“I truly believe that if me and Camille were not here, then this team would still be where they’re at today,” Horrocks said. “Even if me and Camille are not producing then everybody has the ability to step up to the plate.”

Both Buford’s boys and girls will step up to the plate in the largest contest of the season on Saturday in Macon.

NOTE: Check back on Saturday for a complete game preview of each championship contest.
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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