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Wesleyan again sends boys, girls to Final Four

Wesleyan's Logan Morris (20) shoots over St. Francis' Anntionette Brown in the second half of their game on Saturday at Marietta High School.

Wesleyan's Logan Morris (20) shoots over St. Francis' Anntionette Brown in the second half of their game on Saturday at Marietta High School.

The event's rarity made it pretty special.

Wesleyan not only put both its boys and girls basketball teams in the state Final Four two years ago, but also had both bring home state championships, quite the historical accomplishment.

Even though the Wolves boys and girls teams will have an opportunity to achieve the same feat for the second time in three years beginning with the Class A state semifinals today at the Macon Centreplex, it doesn't make it any less special this time around.

There is still the same camaraderie there was two years ago.

"I was (an assistant coach) in (girls coach) Jan (Azar's) program for three years, so we've always been supportive of each other's programs," said Wesleyan boys coach Skip Matherly, whose Wolves (24-6) take on Wilcox County tonight at 8:30. "Our kids get it. That's why (all Wesleyan athletic teams) support everyone else.

"Getting to the Final Four is a special thing, I don't care how many times you do it."

There are some differences this time around, especially for the boys team, which brings almost an entirely new roster into tonight's game from its last trip to the Macon Centreplex.

"Two years ago, we really felt like that was a huge deal. This is an entirely different group," Matherly said. "Kyle (Karempelis), Carter (Brantley) and Griffin (Schamp), I think, are the only three guys (on the current team) who dressed for that team. So, most of our guys have never been."

By contrast, Wesleyan's girls (26-4) will be making their seventh straight trip to the Final Four, and eighth in the last nine years, when they square off with Taylor County at 7 p.m.

And the Wolves' six seniors -- including Wake Forest signee Erin Hall and Wofford-bound Logan Morris -- have never had their season end in any other venue.

But as Azar points out, the focus is more on the present than in the past.

"We don't really get into that," Azar said. "We try not to pay too much attention to previous years. ... The past is the past.

"Besides, while we've got the largest group of seniors I can remember, we've also got a group of younger kids who have known each other and played together since middle school. Our goal each year is to make it so that you don't notice when we graduate someone. Everything continues on."

The Wolves will be taking on Taylor County, a program that boasts 10 state titles in its storied history, the last one in 2003.

This year's team is 29-1, including a 14-1 record against state tournament teams from three different classifications, led by 5-foot-10 junior guard Shaniqua Holston and her sister, 5-11 sophomore Artisha Holston.

The Vikings also like an up-tempo pace similar to what Wesleyan likes to dictate, so Azar says fans may be in for a shootout.

"They have two sisters who are really good, so we'll have to deal with them," Azar said. "And I understand they like to press and run. So, I guess we'll see who does that better."

Wesleyan fans will see a lot of familiar faces in the boys game.

Many of the Wilcox County (26-2) players were also on the field at Henderson Stadium when the Patriots eliminated the Wolves in the quarterfinals of the Class A state football playoffs last fall, including 6-7 post Lonnie Outlaw and junior guard Nick Marshall, who averages over 30 points per game.

While Matherly acknowledges Wilcox's athleticism will provide his team with a challenge, he also believes his team's versatility and shooting ability -- especially from the likes of Schamp, Wes Caver and Andrew Frerking -- will prove challenging to the Patriots.

"I think we're more multi-faceted (than two years ago)," Matherly said. "We have to be because we don't have the size and bulk of that team. We've got five or six guys who can shoot the 3 (-pointer), so (opponents) have to guard us differently from that team."