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Wesleyan girls make return trip to Final Four

Photo: Josh Martindale. Wesleyan's  Grace Leah Baughn (4) takes a shot over St. Francis' Diamond Henderson in the first half of the Elite Eight matchup at Marietta High School on Saturday.

Photo: Josh Martindale. Wesleyan's Grace Leah Baughn (4) takes a shot over St. Francis' Diamond Henderson in the first half of the Elite Eight matchup at Marietta High School on Saturday.

MARIETTA -- The Wesleyan girls haven't beaten a Class A team by less than 26 points all season, but that isn't the only thing that the Wolves will have going for them on Wednesday in Macon against Taylor County.

State tournament history will also be on the side of coach Jan Azar's team.

Wesleyan is in the Final Four for the ninth time in 10 seasons and the Wolves have never lost a semifinal game.

Taylor County, a proud program itself, was one of the victims. In fact, the Vikings were Wesleyan's opponent in 2002 when the Wolves went on to win their first of six state titles.

Wesleyan continued its quest for a seventh championship on Saturday with a 92-45 rout of St. Francis in a quarterfinal game at Marietta High School. The Wolves had 12 players score and five reached double figures, led by Wake Forest signee Erin Hall's 18 points.

Region 7-A champ Wesleyan (26-4) finished the regular season ranked No. 1, while Region 2-A winner Taylor County (29-1) was No. 3. The Vikings beat Emanuel County Institute 60-49 on Friday at Columbus in their quarterfinal game to advance to Wednesday's 7 p.m. meeting with Wesleyan at the Macon Centreplex.

"Taylor County has a good team and they have a lot of tradition," Azar said.

The Vikings have won 10 state titles, including four straight from 1968-1972. But their last was in 2003 -- the only year that Wesleyan missed the Final Four during its run of success.

The Wolves lost in the Class A quarterfinals that season to Holy Innocents'. But St. Francis, the No. 4 seed from Wesleyan's region, didn't come close to pulling an upset this year.

Against a team like Wesleyan, you can't afford any mistakes. And St. Francis made one before it got to the quarterfinal site.

The Knights (18-12) showed up in the wrong colored uniforms after failing to check the tournament brackets. St. Francis was accessed a technical foul as a result and Hall sank two free throws before the game began.

"I've never seen that before in the state tournament," Azar said.

Wesleyan always travels with two sets of uniforms, so the Wolves changed into white. Then they began undressing St. Francis on the court.

The gap was 40-21 at halftime and 59-34 after three periods. Then the Wesleyan reserves kept the lead growing as the Wolves scored 33 points in the fourth quarter.

Grace Leah Baughn scored 13 points, Holli Wilkins had 12, and Kennington Groff and Jordan Frazier had 11 each.

Wilkins and Baughn also helped Wesleyan dominate the boards, with Wilkins grabbing 13 rebounds and Baughn nine. Kaelyn Causwell had eight rebounds and four blocked shots to go with her nine points.

Diamond Henderson, who started the season at North Cobb, scored 18 points for St. Francis. She was one of three Knights to foul out in a game that featured 64 free throws.

Wesleyan defeated St. Francis 89-49 and 78-41 during the regular season, but those were by far not some of the Wolves' more lopsided Class A games.

The Wolves' two closest games against Class A competition were against Paideia, which they defeated 60-34 in the regular season and 63-32 for the region title.

Now it is Taylor County's turn to try to knock off the Wolves, who are going for their third straight state championship and seventh in 10 years. Four of Wesleyan's titles came in Class AA and the other two in Class A.