Buford’s Camille Anderson hasn’t forgotten the agony attached to coming up three points short of St. Pius X in the Class AAA state championship last year, a game she felt her squad should have won.
She thought about it all during the offseason as she went through endless hours of shooting, conditioning drills, agility work and playing with the AOT Rebels AAU, who are based out of McEachern High in Powder Springs.
It was all in effort to get it right this season and finish the season on top come March in Macon. Right now, it looks like Anderson and the top-ranked Lady Wolves (16-3, 4-0 Region 8-AAAA) are headed in the right direction.
“Losing like we did last season built a fire under all of us,” said Anderson, who will go on to play at N.C. State next season. “Everyone on this team is working toward the goal of getting back to win a state championship.”
Both of Anderson’s trips to the state championship have ended in heartbreak, with a state runner-up spot in 2012 and 2014. Now, she’s locked in on leading a injury-riddled Lady Wolves squad, which is on an eight-game winning streak, to its first state championship since reeling off three Class AA titles 2009-2011.
Tonight, Buford plays host to Stephens County at 7 p.m.
Lady Wolves coach Gene Durden is confident in Anderson’s leadership abilities and basketball savvy to be the centerpiece for a run at the championship. She’s stepped up and been able to play a number of positions on the floor with injuries to three post players. Anderson also has a fantastic touch on her shots, one she says got better after a shoulder injury following her sophomore season. For the season, she’s averaging 18 points, four rebounds and three assists a game.
Last week at North Hall, Anderson grabbed control of the game early with three 3-pointers in the first quarter and a game-high 25 points.
“Camille puts a lot of work into her craft,” said Durden. “The ways she shoots the ball, she’s so strong, it almost looks effortless.”
Anderson said Buford has continued to gel together after a “rough patch” in the Farm Bureau Classic during Christmas Vacation in Greenville, S.C., where it lost to Southeast Raleigh (N.C.) 35-22. The Lady Wolves’ only other losses were out-of-region battles against defending Class A state runner-up St. Francis in overtime, and a loss to a tough Morgan County squad, 46-44.
Anderson’s role for the Lady Wolves has continued to be as a player who can do a little bit of everything. She plays point guard, shooting guard or small forward depending on the situation, even though her natural position is on the wing. A long list of injuries put Anderson in the position, one she has embraced whole-heartedly.
The injuries have been extensive all season for the Lady Wolves. Freshmen Tatum Shipes, a 6-foot-3 post player, experienced a torn labrum during volleyball season, while 6-foot point guard Tory Ozment went down with a knee injury for the season during a scrimmage. Jessica Nelson, a 6-2 freshman power forward also had a knee injury, but should be back for the region tournament.
“It hurts my heart because some of these girls I won’t get the chance to play with,” said Anderson.
Others who have missed multiple games for Buford, according to Durden, are Zikaya Wright and Corey Staples, while senior Katy Bisges will not play against Stephens County due to the flu.
“And those injuries don’t count all the sicknesses, bumps and bruises that have kept girls out this season,” said Durden.
With all the injuries, Durden said his players continue to impress him with their grit and determination.
“This group continues to amaze me with their ability to keep finding a way to win,” said Durden. “I think it’s a good sign of what they could be able to do down the stretch if we continue to play this way.”
Durden said one of the keys to Buford’s success this season was Anderson’s endless effort to become a complete player.
Anderson first cracked the starting lineup as a sophomore. That year she was the young unknown, and was able to flourish with her outside shooting ability. All the attention two years ago was focused on starting the Lady Wolves’ stars at the time, such as Kristina Nelson and Maya Dillard.
“Early on in her career, Camille was like a bull in a china shop,” said Durden. “She’s worked so hard and her game has grown tremendously.”
Now with Anderson in the middle, complemented by a strong cast of players, Buford is in position to make a charge at that state championship. Bisges has blossomed as a solid outside shooter this season, while Wright has run the post and been consistent at scoring underneath the basket.
“Everyone has found a way to embrace their role on this team,” Anderson said.