But Parker and his squad were elated to hear the buzzer sound at the end of the game. After dominating the first three quarters, Washington County let up just a bit and Butler rallied but came up short in a 67-63 loss.
The Lady Hawks (30-0) will play defending champion Columbia at 7 p.m. Friday at the Macon Centreplex in their first Final Four appearance since 1992, three years before their star sophomore Allisha Gray was born.
"Our main goal was to get to Columbus," Gray said. "Then it was to get to Macon. Now we want to win a ring."
Gray scored 24 points to lead Washington County, while Sheirkerriea Nelson added 23.
The Lady Hawks cruised to a 26-point halftime lead and extended it to 28 in the third quarter. For a while, the biggest mystery appeared to be whether or not there would be a shortened six-minute fourth quarter.
But Butler unleashed a wave of offense with a barrage of 3-pointers by Ashley Watts and solid play from Crystal Berksteiner, who scored 10 in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs (16-15) scored more points in the fourth quarter (30) than the Lady Hawks scored in the entire second half (27).
"I think the girls got comfortable and settled down," Parker said. "I kept telling them, 'We just can't turn it on and turn it off.' We need to leave it on."
Senior Sierra McNure left the game late in the fourth quarter with what appeared to be a knee injury. She writhed in pain on the floor before being helped off, and she had an ice pack on the knee as she was helped to the locker room after the game.