ATHENS — The Buford boys got their long-awaited basketball championship on Wednesday night and they had to beat a familiar rival to do it.
The No. 1-ranked Wolves turned aside No. 2 Cedar Shoals 75-61, besting their Region 8 rivals for the fourth time this season in the Class AAAAA boys championship game at Stegeman Coliseum.
It was the eighth career championship for Buford coach Eddie Martin, who previously won titles at Norcross and Greater Atlanta Christian. But the veteran coach was quick to shift any focus from himself to his players.
“This is their first,” Martin said. “They’d been here five other times and got beat in the state championship. This is their first basketball title and it’s huge for them. … I’ll reflect on what it means later, but this is about them and winning their first.”
It wasn’t easy. Buford led only 36-34 entering the fourth quarter, but outscored Cedar Shoals 11-2 to open the final period. A fast break basket off a steal for Tobi Obasanya gave the Wolves a 47-36 lead with 5:18 remaining. Cedar Shoals never got closer than seven points again.
The Buford girls won the state championship in an earlier game. It is the 17th time that a school has won both titles, the 10th since 2006.
Buford (29-2) was led by sophomore Marcus Watson with 27 points, including two slam dunks, and seven rebounds. Alex Jones added 16 points and three assists, Donell Nixon had 13 points, including three 3-pointers, and David Viti talled 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Cedar Shoals (27-5) got 30 points and 14 rebounds from Charleston Southern signee Phlandrous Fleming. Arthur Jones scored 10 points.
The first half was fast-paced, with each team taking turns grabbing the lead – but not for long. The largest margin enjoyed by either side was four points and the score was tied four different times in the first two quarters.
Cedar Shoals led 15-14 after one quarter and had a 23-19 lead after back-to-back baskets by Fleming. But Buford used its 3-point prowess – Jones and Watson each hit timely treys – and the Wolves took a 29-27 lead into the half when Viti scored on a tip near the buzzer.
The game grew more physical in the second half as the officials opted to let both sides slug it out. Buford used a 6-0 run to go ahead 35-29 with 4:10 left in the third period, but Cedar Shoals trimmed it to 36-34 at the end of the quarter thanks to its unrelenting zone defense.
“We felt if we could get them out of that zone, they couldn’t stay with us man-to-man,” Martin said.
The game stayed close because of Buford’s lack of success at the line. At one point the Wolves were 6-for-14 from the line. They wound up making 25 of 38, as the Jaguars kept fouling until the end.
It was the fourth time the two teams have played this season. Buford won 72-66 and 75-70 in overtime during the regular season. Buford won 76-61 in the Region 8 championship game, a contest that was closer than the score indicates.
Cedar Shoals (61): Arthur Jones 10, Damarrea Low 2, Quenjarvis Hall 5, Stavion Stevenson 6, Phlandrous Fleming 30, Jai’Vanni McDavid 4, Rickil Willingham 2, Ty’Qon Mitchell 2
Buford (75): David Viti 10, Alex Jones 15, Tobi Obasanya 5, Marcus Watson 27, Donell Nixon 13, Dawson Wehunt 2, Jonathan Miles 2.