MACON - Kristina Nelson said the Buford Lady Wolves wanted to make a statement in the Class AA state semifinals against Brooks County on Thursday at the Macon Centreplex.
"We wanted to show them that we're not just any other team that they were playing," said Buford's 6-foot-4 junior center. "We're a different team."
Buford coach Gene Durden just wanted the team to rebound and execute on offense and defense at a championship level.
The Lady Wolves played at the level the coach wanted them to and made the statement the players were looking for with a 70-37 win over the Lady Trojans (24-7) to advance to the state championship game for the fourth consecutive season.
Buford (25-7) will play a familiar opponent, Region 6-AA rival Lovett (27-5), at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Class AA state final at the Macon Centreplex.
"Lovett is no joke," Durden said of the team he called a natural rival. "They're a great opponent, and we're just happy we only have to play them three times."
Buford beat Lovett 45-39 in the region championship game and 58-44 in the regular season. Last season the Lady Wolves played Greater Atlanta Christian in the title game, the fourth meeting of the season.
Nelson transferred from Greater Atlanta Christian, and is excited to have the chance to win a state title.
"It's exciting to be able to play for a state championship and maybe win this time," Nelson said.
The Lady Wolves' junior (12 points) was one of three Buford players in double figures, along with Kaela Davis (13) and Mackenzie Darrah (11).
All three were in double digits by halftime in a game that quickly got away from Brooks County and was shortened to a six-minute fourth quarter due to Buford's 40-point lead after three.
"I was just happy," Durden said of getting ahead so quick. "It's a situation where we could play our younger kids and give them some valuable minutes.
"They're our future."
In all, 11 players scored for the Lady Wolves, who Durden said took advantage of Brooks County's pressure defense to get free for easy baskets.
The Lady Wolves' defense was just as dominant as the offense. Buford didn't allow a point for nearly 3:30, and Brooks County's first field goal came with just one minute remaining in the opening quarter.
By that point, Buford was ahead 20-3, a lead that would only grow in the second quarter. The Lady Wolves built a 47-11 lead at the half.
Up to Thursday's game, the Lady Trojans had allowed an average of just 43 points per game.
Buford's lead would grow to its highest point at 57-11 on a free throw by Kallie Case (nine points) with just over 6:30 remaining in the third before Brooks County was able to find a little offense.
Jasmine Mapp led the Lady Trojans with 11 points, the only Brooks County player in double figures.
Buford's defense was suffocating and the offense balanced in the opening half. At the break three players were already in double figures scoring.
Darrah had 11 points at the half, while Nelson and Davis each entered the break with 10.
Nelson provided all the scoring early, tallying the first four points of the game on a pair of putbacks and starting a 10-0 run for Buford to start the game.
She scored her last two points early in the third, and then the starters gave way to the bench.
"Kristina, she used her size to get on the boards," Durden said. "I think she did a great job today."
Durden also praised the efforts of senior point guard Andraya Carter, who scored just four points, but once again led the Lady Wolves to the win, something she has been doing throughout the program's incredible run.
"You'll see that when Buford started winning championships, Carter was on the team," Durden said.
"I've never seen another player dominate without scoring like her."
Now Carter has a chance to make it a sweep - four titles in four years if the Lady Wolves can get a win Saturday.
Durden said it would be a great way to end a stellar high school career for a player who will play at the University of Tennessee next season.