Wolves roll into quarters

NORCROSS -- In a replay of last year's quarterfinal matchup, the defending champion Wesleyan Wolves had a deficit to cover in the first quarter against Towns County.

Breaking the Wolves' press and finding Gabby Arencibia for a pair of big 3-pointers, Towns County led 7-2 and 14-13 with about a minute left in the first quarter.

It was the same formula that helped the Indians hang with powerhouse Wesleyan a year ago. But it didn't work for long this time either.

The Wolves, who have won six state titles in the last eight years, turned it on in the second quarter and ran away from Towns County for an 81-32 victory in the second round of the girls Class A tournament Wednesday.

"Our shots were definitely not on (in the first quarter)," Wesleyan head coach Jan Azar said. "And Towns County did a great job. But what I like is that we stuck with it and the more they stayed in the game, the harder we began to play.

"But we've got to remember that this is a state tournament. We've got to come ready to play all the time."

After Arencibia's second 3 of the quarter, fleet-footed freshman Brittany Stevens swiped the ball and dished it to Jordan Frazier with time winding down. Frazier's shot put Wesleyan ahead 15-14 and Towns County never got closer.

"Towns County did us a huge favor in the first quarter to let us know that we cannot come out in any game and not be ready to play from the start," Azar said. "They showed us, when we don't play hard, we are a very normal basketball team. When we played hard, we become better than normal."

Azar had some words for her team between quarters and they came out hustling.

Frazier stole the ball and fed senior Kennington Groff on the perimeter. Groff drained a 3 and the Wolves were rolling.

Stevens, the shortest player on the court, ripped down a rebound and snapped the ball to Grace Leah Baughn for one of her seven assists in the game. Baughn, who finished with a game-high 19 points, buried a 3 and all of a sudden Wesleyan had a 26-16 lead with just two minutes gone in the second quarter.

"We're always going 100 percent as hard as we can -- because if you don't you know you're coming out," Groff said. "We started off kind of slow. I don't know if we were ready after the game last year (in which Wesleyan ended up winning 92-36). But I think once we realized it was close in the beginning, we knew that we better step it up and that's exactly what we did."

The Wolves (25-4) led 43-13 at the break and Towns County scored just five points in the second half.

Groff finished with 16 points and a game-best eight assists. She and Baughn were the only Wolves in double figures, but Wesleyan had 13 players score.

Seniors Erin Hall (seven points), Grace Cowart (four), Megan Coole (two), Logan Morris (seven) and Aysia McKenzie (four) all contributed in their final game at Yancey Gym.

"I'm proud of the seniors," Azar said. "I think they realized, 'We're not playing like we should,' and they decided that they needed to get out there and play the right way.

"Erin's shot was not falling and we had other people that stepped up and hit their shot. Erin found her jump shot when her 3 wasn't falling and as soon as she hit a few of those, she started hitting her 3."

Wesleyan moves on to play St. Francis on Saturday at Marietta.