BUFORD — Wednesday night was an exciting one for Buford point guard Ashyia Willis.
She celebrated her 16th birthday with a victory, and received the keys to her first car afterward.
“I don’t know what (model) it is yet,” the sophomore said afterward. “It’s a Honda.”
The gift, along with a postgame serenade of “Happy Birthday,” gave the evening some uniqueness. As for the game itself, it was typical Buford girls basketball.
The two-time defending state champions rolled to an impressive 62-32 victory over a 22-win Carrollton team in the second round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs. The Wolves will host Veterans in next week’s quarterfinals.
“We had challenged them to step up because we knew Carrollton’s a very talented team with really good guard play,” Buford girls coach Gene Durden said. “Boy, we brought it and played so hard. I was very proud of their effort. It was a great team win. Our defense, our hustle, everything was on point.”
Buford (26-2) got off to a slow start offensively, but its defense was stifling from the start. Outside of 19 points and four 3-pointers from De’Mauri Flournoy, Carrollton (22-8) struggled for any offense.
Flournoy opened the game with a 3-pointer, but the Trojans’ next points came with 23 seconds left in the first quarter. Willis made a shot at the first-quarter buzzer for a 12-5 lead, and the Wolves kept building the lead from there.
“It was a good effort,” Willis said. “We came out in warmups and we worked hard. We knew from the start we had to play hard and fast to get them worn out, and that’s what we did.”
Willis, who had a team-high 13 points and four rebounds, scored nine in the first half to build a 30-13 edge at intermission. Flourney hit a 3-pointer on the first possession of the third quarter, then the Wolves went on a 14-0 run to seize control.
Casey Jones made two 3-pointers in that decisive sequence, and Sara Viti had a three-point play. Jones backed up Willis with 12 points, all on 3-pointers.
The Wolves also got 11 points and six rebounds from Ebony Grant, and eight points, six rebounds and three assists from Tate Walters. Tatum Ozment (six points, four rebounds) and Katelyn Klein (five rebounds) were among the top bench performers.
Buford’s quest for a state championship three-peat continues next week.
“It’s a fun time for all of us,” Willis said of the postseason. “We bond better and this is the part where you want to be. The regular season is over and now you get the fun part.”