MACON - After enduring a few sluggish starts throughout the Class A state tournament, Wesleyan girls decided to avoid the rush and get started early in claiming the state's ultimate prize.
The top-ranked Wolves had scored seven points before the game was a minute and a half old, a 10-point lead before the midpoint of the first quarter and a 21-point advantage by the end of the opening frame en route to a 71-31 victory over No. 3 Savannah Country Day on Saturday at the Macon Centreplex.
The win secured the fifth title in the last six years for Wesleyan (29-4) and the Wolves were determined to show they had come ready to play from the opening tip - especially seniors Anne Marie Armstrong and Chantel Kennedy.
The former posted a game-high 16 points and 11 rebounds and added four assists, while the latter chipped in 11 points, six rebounds and three steals.
"Me and Chantel talked and we knew this was our last chance in high school to prove what we're made of," said the 6-foot-3 Armstrong, who has won eight state titles in three sports with Wesleyan. "So, we told everybody we were going to come out and do the best we could do. And everyone did very well."
Apparently, the Wolves took the challenge of their senior teammates to heart.
Sophomore Grace Leah Baughn knocked down a 3-pointer and added a layup in the lane in the first 1:28, and when Aysia McKenzie finished off another drive through the lane with 4:37 left in the first quarter, the Wolves had a 13-3 lead.
Blake Stafford hit a layup to bring Savannah Country Day to within 13-5 with 4:25 remaining in the quarter, but those were the last points the Hornets would score in the period.
Meanwhile, Kennedy capped a run of 13 straight Wesleyan points with a pair of layups, extending the Wolves lead to 26-5 by the end of the quarter.
"You always want to show a team what you can do at the beginning," Wesleyan coach Jan Azar said. "So, I feel like we went out and made an early statement about what we wanted to do."
That statement resounded loud and clear, especially on defense as Wesleyan limited Savannah Country Day to just a Melissa Buckhamer jumper and a Katherine Dotson free throw for the second quarter.
The Wolves countered with six points by Armstrong and four more by Logan Morris to built a whopping 40-8 lead by halftime, and they rolled on from there to send Armstrong and Kennedy out winners and continue the program's winning tradition
"We all were excited," Kennedy said. "We just didn't stop playing."
While the two seniors and Baughn (12 points) were the only players to reach double figures for Wesleyan, several other players stepped up and made big contributions.
McKenzie finished with eight points, six assists and two steals, while Erin Hall added eight points and three steals and Holli Wilkins came off the bench to chip in seven points and seven rebounds.
Burkhamer and Dotson each scored 12 points to lead Savannah Country Day.