Southeast may not be the favorite to win the Class 6A boys basketball championship but the postseason is traditionally a time when the Golden Buffaloes meet or exceed expectations.
All they need is some indication that it can happen again, and they found it during the first three minutes of their 83-67 win over West on Tuesday and through versatile play from three of their most experienced players.
Southeast outscored the Pioneers 15-2 during that span and presented a team that could be tough to beat when the postseason begins next week.
"It's like a statement, a big statement," Southeast junior forward Gavin Thurman said. "We had a rough start at the beginning of the season, but we can turn it around quick and that's what we've been doing."
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Southeast established the tempo from the get-go by taking shots early in possessions, using any opening to its advantage. Thurman provided most of his production in the paint but he pulled up for a three-pointer in the first minute that helped the Buffaloes start on a 9-0 run.
Thurman wasn't needed on the perimeter because that's where Hayden Harris dealt an early dagger with back-to-back three-pointers in the first quarter. The second put Southeast ahead 15-2 and prompted a timeout from West coach Phil Daignault.
"We were moving the ball, getting easy shots," Harris said. "Layups. We weren't taking any jump shots unless it was wide open, and (we were) rebounding."
Thurman, Harris and point guard Reggie Williams carried Southeast most often, combining for 58 points and 26 rebounds.
The West post players who could play physically against the 6-foot-7 Thurman couldn't match his quickness, and Thurman had a significant height advantage over all who opposed him. That helped him grab a game-high 12 rebounds, but it served him best by allowing him to utilize his abilities from close range.
Thurman drew plenty of contact by pounding in the lane and also made several jump shots, a combination responsible for his 19 points.
"I just try to keep on finding easy buckets," Thurman said. "I tried to stick to stuff around the basket."
Harris made three three-pointers in the first half and scored 22 points but didn't seem satisfied with being the Buffaloes' leading scorer. Against the undersized Pioneers the 6-3 senior saw an opportunity to help inside, and he finished with nine rebounds.
"Rebounding is just as important as scoring," Harris said. "Without the ball you can't do nothing. If I see the ball coming off the rim, I'm going to get it."
In a fast-paced game, it was important for the Buffaloes to have a steady ball handler, and Williams gave them that. His only shaky period was a stretch during the third quarter when he had his only three turnovers, but he was otherwise solid, scoring 17 points with seven assists and five rebounds.
"He's really grown this year," Southeast coach Carl Taylor said. "He's done a lot of good things for us. He's quick _ if you don't guard him he'll take it to the hole on you."
West (4-15, 1-14) 16 18 15 18 — 67 Southeast (11-8, 8-7) 26 16 18 23 — 83
WEST: J. Bradley 3 0-0 6, Flournoy 6 4-5 20, Banks 4 1-5 11, Hardy 1 0-0 2, Kelly 4 0-0 8, Sutton 0 0-0 0, Thomas 3 3-4 9, Griffin 5 0-0 10, Mboob 0 0-0 0, D. Bradley 0 1-2 1. Totals 26 (6) 9-16 67.
SOUTHEAST: Williams 7 2-2 17, Brooks 3 2-2 8, Gunter 3 0-0 6, Thurman 6 6-10 19, Harris 8 3-4 22, Ransom 2 1-2 5, Garland 2 0-0 5, Greene 0 1-2 1. Totals 31 (6) 15-22 83.