When they met in the finals for the first time Wednesday at the University of Georgia’s Stegeman Coliseum, the night belonged to Buford from start to finish.
Tory Ozment scored 15 of her game-high 18 points in the first half as her team built an 11-point lead, and the Wolves cruised past Southwest DeKalb 60-42.
The victory gave Buford (29-2) its fifth championship in nine years (the Wolves won Class AA in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and Class AAAA in 2015). Southwest DeKalb, which finished 27-5, was seeking its second consecutive title and sixth since 2008. The Panthers are 5-3 in championship-game appearances in 15 seasons under coach Kathy Richey-Walton.
Ozment scored five points in a 9-0 run that put Buford in control after Southwest DeKalb had taken a 2-0 lead on a short shot by Jada Walton.
“Tory is just a unique kid, being a 6-foot point guard with her long arms,” Buford coach Gene Durden said. “She’s so versatile and can do so many things. The thing I was so pleased about with Tory was her back-side rebounding; she did a great job with that tonight. She does so many things that don’t show up on the stat sheet. She’s just a tough matchup no matter what you do.”
Buford led 16-13 at the end of the first quarter and scored the first six points of the second, but Southwest DeKalb got back to within three points midway through the quarter. The Wolves then went on an 8-0 run that included 3-pointers by Tate Walters and Audrey Weiner and eventually led 34-23 at halftime.
After the Wolves scored the first five points of the second half, their lead remained steady between 14 and 19 points the rest of the way.
Ozment was the only Buford player in double figures, and she added seven rebounds, six assists and five steals. Buford had three other players (Weiner, Walters and Jessica Nelson) with at least eight points, and nine Wolves scored at least two. Buford was 8-for-17 from 3-point range.
“I think our depth and our versatility is so key to this team,” Durden said.. “We have so many kids that are weapons, kids that can shoot it, kids that can drive it and handle it and rebound. So it makes it hard to defend us because we’ve got so many kids that can do stuff.”
Southwest DeKalb’s Walton and Ruona Uwusiaba came in scoring a combined 30 points per game in the playoffs, and they were right on their average as Uwusiaba finished with 16 points (and 16 rebounds) and Walton scored 13. But the rest of the Panthers had a combined 13 points.
Southwest DeKalb – 13-10-8-11 – 42
Buford – 16-18-12-14 – 60
Southwest DeKalb (42): Chantz Cherry 0, Jada Walton 13, Lanee Edwards 2, Ruona Uwusiaba 16, Michaela Bennefield 6, Nya Bostic 0, YaRia Sanders 0, Tiera Williams 0, Canice Collins 1-1 1-2 3, Raven Thurman 0, Ashlynn Green 0, Desiray Coulter 0, Kennedy Morman 0, Jayla Kimbrough 2.
Buford (60): Tory Ozment 18, Marisa Bruce 5, Audrey Weiner 8, Zikaya Wright 2, Pamela Johnson 4, Tate Walters 9, Mary Walters 2, Rachel Dobbs 3, Kya Styles 0, Jessica Nelson 9.