CARROLLTON- Camille Anderson had taken a hard fall and hurt her knee. Yet there she was half a quarter later back at the scorer's table to check in before the second quarter.
Fellow Buford senior Katy Bisges wasn't sure what to make of what was happening.
"We were all laughing and saying, 'Don't play with us like that. That's not cool,'" Bisges said.
It was no joke. Anderson returned from her first-quarter injury scare to score 17 points and lead a 51-39 Class AAAA semifinal win against second-seeded Fayette County on Saturday afternoon at the University of West Georgia.
Top-ranked Buford faces Carrollton, a 43-42 winner against Veterans, in the state championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday in Macon.
The Lady Wolves (29-3), who fell to St. Pius X in last season's AAA title game, are making their sixth title game appearance in coach Gene Durden's 10 seasons. They're looking to pick up a fourth championship in that span.
Anderson was as concerned as anybody when she went down after contact while trying to score at the 4:02 mark of the first quarter.
"I was in so much pain that I was scared of the fact that I probably wasn't going to be able to help my team win," Anderson said.
Upon being told it wasn't an ACL injury, Anderson asked her athletic trainer if she could go back in the game and got the go-ahead. The N.C. State signee was hugged by an assistant coach and a teammate on her way back onto the court. All of her points came after the injury.
"It was amazing to be able to go back in there. I just had to fight through the pain," Anderson said. "I was still in pain, but I just had to do anything to help my team win because we just want to win a state championship."
Durden had already told his players they were going to have to play without Anderson the rest of the way.
"About that time, she comes up and says, 'No, you're not, Coach. I'm back.' That says a lot about her toughness coming back," Durden said. "I'm just glad she's on my team."
The Wolves broke a 35-all tie early in the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run. It began on a Lane Crawford runner, and an Anderson 3-pointer pushed it to 40-35. It would never be less than a two-possession game again.
Anderson split a pair of free throws and Bisges came up with an old-fashioned three-point play on a layup with 2:26 to go to make it 44-35.
A Kayla Smith 3-pointer cut it back to 44-38, but Buford found Chandler Hall underneath for a layup and a 46-38 edge with 1:40 left.
Bisges made 1 of 2 free throws and Anderson went 4 for 4 at the foul line in the final 50 seconds ice the win.
"Our kids are a lot more calm when she's out there on the floor," Durden said of Anderson.
Crawford also banked in a 3-pointer in the first 20 seconds of the final quarter for a 32-28 lead. She pointed to Anderson's leadership as crucial.
"We go with her," Crawford said. "We follow her."
Bisges added 11 points, and Zikaya Wright chipped in eight for the Wolves.
Whitney Williams paced Fayette County (20-11) with 10 points, as Smith added nine and Christa Jones eight.
Buford forced three 10-second violations and two over-and-back calls in the first half but switched up its defense as the contest wore on.
"Our full-court did some great things to create turnovers, but we didn't get any transition points off of them," Durden said. "We decided we (were) going to go back, play half-court defense and grind. And when we did, I think we did a really good job."
Durden said his team has proved its doubters wrong after graduating 10 seniors from last season's state finalist group.
Anderson isn't exactly sure what happened to her knee Saturday, but she says she won't know until after Thursday's title game.
"I'm not going to go to the doctor until after Thursday," Anderson said. "We'll find out then."
Bisges said Buford has some unfinished business to take care of in Macon.
"We're doing this for the seniors last year, for sure," Bisges said. "They're our motivation for this year because they really deserved it last year, and we want to be up there just as well."