ATLANTA -- It isn't how you finish, it's how you start.
While that may not be the adage most people are used to, the Wesleyan boys attested to it on Wednesday night with a 64-61 win over the Pace Academy Knights (21-7) in the second round of the Class A state tournament.
After leading by as many as 17 points in the second half, the Wolves (22-6) had no answer for Pace's guard tandem of Josh Swan and Alex Davis, who reeled off 12 straight Knights field goals, cutting Wesleyan's lead to 63-61.
"(Davis) and (Swan) went to the hole and quite honestly, I not only don't have anybody that can guard them, I'm not sure if I've got five that can guard them," Wesleyan head coach Skip Matherly said. "We were trying but we just couldn't keep them out of there and there wasn't much we could do about it."
With 13.1 seconds left on the clock, Wolves guard Wes Caver stepped to the charity stripe with a chance to ice the game by nailing both free throws and pushing the Wesleyan lead to four points.
Caver missed his first attempt, but nailed the second, extending the margin to three points. But Pace still had an opportunity to tie things up with a 3-pointer.
Wesleyan's suffocating perimeter defense prevented the Knights from getting an open look and as Pace guard Kevin McCall's 3-point attempt missed, the horn sounded and the Wolves stormed the court to celebrate the victory.
"We tightened up and missed some free throws that could have sealed it early but we got that big stop at the end when we knew they were gonna shoot the 3 and we defended it real well," Matherly said. "You come over here and win in a Sweet 16 game against a team as good as (Pace) who played Whitefield down to the wire twice this year...that's an awfully good team we beat tonight."
Despite shooting 67 percent from behind the arc, Wesleyan was outscored by the Knights 36-23 in the second half allowing Pace to get right back into a game that the Wolves dominated early.
"We executed our defensive game plan probably as well as we have all season," Matherly said. "This is a team that's averaging 74 or 75 points a game and to hold them to 25 in a half is fantastic and our offense fed off of that tonight. We really felt confident in ourselves and therefore we shot the ball real well."
Leading the way for the Wolves on the offensive end was junior forward Andrew Frerking, who scored 30 points on 7 of 8 shooting from 3-point land and senior Griffin Schamp who netted 14 points of his own and pulled down a team-high seven rebounds.
The road doesn't get any easier for Wesleyan as they will advance to take on a tough Providence team in the quarterfinals this Saturday at Marietta High School.
"Providence has proven time and time again they are a bunch of fighters and they will battle you tooth and nail for 32 minutes," Matherly said. "So we just got to turn around and get ready for that. If we play with the intensity that we played with tonight, we got a good chance but Providence has got a great chance too...they're here for a reason and it ought to be a good one."