Wesleyan's Holli Wilkins, center, pulls in an offensive rebound against Taylor County's Shaniqua Holston (10) and Keshundra Jackson (20) during Wednesday's Class A semifinal game in Macon.
MACON -- The first quarter of the Class A state semifinal game between Wesleyan and Taylor County looked like a typical Wolves game.
After taking as much as a 19-point lead in the second quarter, the final three quarters did not.
However, Wesleyan managed to maintain its poise after receiving the sternest test from a Class A opponent all season, rallying after the Taylor County pulled as close as 10 points to finally pull away for a 66-44 win Wednesday at the Macon Centreplex.
The top-ranked Wolves (27-4) will play for their third straight title and eighth since 2002 when they return to the Centreplex to take on Savannah Christian at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
But coach Jan Azar hopes for a more dominating performance from her team than it managed Wednesday night.
"The big thing is, we judge ourselves by ourselves and not how other judge us," Azar said. "I didn't think we played as well as we could have, and we have some things to correct before Saturday."
There wasn't much to correct in the first quarter after the Wolves forced Taylor County (29-2) into 13 turnovers.
The offense was working just as well as Erin Hall connected on a pair of 3-pointers and eight of her 10 points on the night in the first 4:44 of the game, helping Wesleyan roll to a 19-2 lead.
And the Wolves still looked in control after a stickback by Kennington Groff gave them their biggest lead of the half at 31-12 with 6:41 left until intermission.
But Taylor County slowly began to chip away behind sisters Shaniqua and Artisha Holston, who combined for all but seven of the Vikings' points in the first half.
And when Tamara Majors connected on Taylor County's only 3-pointer of the game with 2:17 left in the half, the Wesleyan lead was just 35-22.
Even though the Wolves managed to get the lead back to 15 at 39-24 at halftime, Azar knew things were not quite right from the pace the game had taken.
"The game kind of slowed down and Taylor County started getting to the (foul) line," Azar said. "To Taylor's credit, they hit a lot of their free throws.
"And when we got up by a lot in the first quarter, I think we got complacent. Our best offense is our defense, and that didn't really happen (after the first quarter)."
Indeed, Wesleyan only forced 14 turnovers in the final three quarters, and Taylor County was able to climb even closer, twice pulling as close as 10 points, the final time at 43-33 after Shaniqua Holston's pull-up jumper with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
But Wesleyan finally began to re-establish its quick pace, especially on the defensive end.
And it was reserves Jordan Frazier and Brittany Stevens who led the charge.
Stevens came up with a huge coast-to-coast drive for a layup to get things started.
"We're a better team in transition," said Stevens, who finished with just four points, but added five big rebounds and two assists. "I was just trying to get that going for us."
Both Stevens and Frazier got things going defensively with steals during the final 3 minutes of the quarter.
Frazier finished two of them in transition during an 8-0 run that gave Wesleyan some breathing room at 51-33 heading into the fourth quarter.
"We're used to pressing," said Fraizer, who finished with nine points and four steals on the night. "And we needed to move to get back into that. Each defensive stop just keeps our momentum going."
That jolt to get Wesleyan's momentum going was needed one last time after Artisha Holston's layup pulled Taylor County to within 53-42 with 5:43 to play. But another steal by Frazier, which led to her hitting 1 of 2 free throws, ignited a run of nine straight Wesleyan points to push the lead back to 62-42 and put the game away.
Holli Wilkins also had a big basket in that run, part of her team-high 15 points, seven rebounds and four steals on the night. Shaniqua Holston led all scorers with 16 points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds, while Artisha Holston added 15 points and seven board for the Vikings.