Armed with a great game plan and a team loaded with girls willing to stick with it, No. 3 St. Pius knocked off No. 1 Buford on Tuesday and earned a spot in the Class AAA semifinals.
The Buford players towered over the Pius players in terms of size, but the Golden Lions used their quickness and a sensational effort from sophomore Asia Durr in a 56-43 win before a stunned crowd at the Wolves Den in Buford.
Durr, the Region 6-AAA player of the year, scored 32 points and had seven rebounds for St. Pius, which faces Chapel Hill in the semifinals in Savannah. She had 11 points in the fourth quarter, including 9-for-9 at the line.
“Our game plan was to limit her, but she hit jump shot after jump shot,” said Buford coach Gene Durden. “We ran our denial defense and a triangle-and-two, but she hit shot after shot. She’s a good player.”
St. Pius (28-3) had plenty of other strong contributors, too. MacKenzie Garrison had three 3-pointers and scored nine points. Jasmine Carter scored eight points, but had six rebounds, six assists and four steals. Laura Redmond came away with nine rebounds.
“We had so many unsung heroes,” said St. Pius coach Kyle Snipes.
But it was Durr who seemed to always be there whenever the Golden Lions needed to get a loose ball, come away with a turnover or score a basket to prevent Buford from seizing the momentum.
“I thought they would have trouble guarding both of them,” Snipes said, referring to Durr and Carter. “We were fortunate that we were able to get Asia going early.”
The game was tight until midway in the second period when Buford’s Camille Anderson hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Wolves a 23-17 lead. That just seemed to motivate St. Pius, which ended the half with a 10-0 run and a 27-23 lead. Buford was never able to get closer than one point again.
“I was proud of the way our kids came back,” Snipes said. “We haven’t been tested like that since Christmas.”
St. Pius pushed its lead to 10 points on consecutive 3-pointers from Durr and Garrison, only to see Buford claw back to within 41-39 on a three-point play by Kristina Nelson. But the Golden Lions were able to protect the ball and force Buford to foul; Pius made 11 of 13 free throws in the fourth quarter.
“They showed a lot of poise,” Durden said. “You can’t leave a team like that open. And I said we needed to limit Durr and we didn’t do that.”
Buford (24-5) was led by Nelson, a Notre Dame commitment, with 19 points and nine rebounds. Bree Horrocks had 14 rebounds, but scored only four points.