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Wesleyan has another chance to claim 2 titles in 1 day

MACON -- For the second time in three years, Wesleyan's boys and girls basketball teams will each play for a state championship when they head to the Macon Centreplex today for championship Saturday.

And each team won their respective semifinals by similar scores Wednesday.

However, the Wolves girls -- who will begin the day's six title games by taking on Savannah Christian for the Class A title at 11 a.m. -- and the boys -- who meet Whitefield Academy at 12:45 p.m. -- took different paths to get there.

The girls (27-4) earned their way in the title game by beating Taylor County by a comfortable-sounding score of 66-44.

However, coach Jan Azar and the Wolves were hardly satisfied with way the game unfolded, especially after building a 19-point lead in the first half, only to see Taylor County rally to pull as close as 10 points twice before Wesleyan regained control.

Azar has said she believed the Wolves needed to "fix some things" in order to subdue Savannah Christian (21-6) today.

However, those things weren't necessarily tactical in nature.

"I don't know that what we needed to work on could be fixed in practice," Azar said. "We just need to get them fixed in our minds. We need to come out and play four quarters of basketball, not just one. I don't think that will be a problem (today)."

While the Wesleyan girls, winners of two straight state titles and six since 2002, were expected to win by many at the Macon Centreplex on Wednesday, the same can't necessarily be said about the boys (25-6).

Just after Whitefield earned its way opposite the Wolves in today's title game, Wolfpack fans started chanting, "We want Wilcox."

Wesleyan denied those wishes by breaking down Wilcox County and pulling away for a 71-51 win, and will be a fairly decided underdog again when it takes on defending champion Whitefield (28-3).

But that's OK with coach Skip Matherly and the Wolves.

"I think our guys relish being in that role," Matherly said. "Our attitude is, the better you are, the better we play."

That's exactly what the Wolves did Wednesday against an athletic Wilcox County team behind 20 points and 10 rebounds from Griffin Schamp and 14 points each from Andrew Frerking and Ty Teague.

The challenge today against Whitefield, making its sixth finals appearance in the last eight seasons, will be a different one, though similarly difficult.

The Wolfpack don't have the size Wilcox County did, with Kennard Backman being the tallest player at 6-foot-4.

However, they are also well-known for their tenacious pressing defense and rebounding, as well as being well-disciplined.

Matherly knows his team will have to show many of the same traits in order to win.

"I haven't seen anyone go to the boards like they do, especially the offensive boards," Matherly said of the Wolfpack. "It will be a very similar challenge to when we played East Hall (earlier in the season), but we've been through this before. I don't think (Whitefield is) any better than anybody we've played this season, but they're certainly as good as anybody we've played.

"We've got to do the same thing as we did (against Wilcox). We've got to rebound and take care of the basketball. If we do that, we've got a chance. If we don't, it will be a long afternoon."

Similarly, the Wesleyan girls are hoping to get contributions across the board in dealing with a Savannah Christian (21-5) team that shot 20-for-28 (71.4 percent) from the floor in its semifinal win over Southwest Atlanta Christian, led by Kelly Reid's 18 points and 13 from Randi Friess.

That means a similar defensive effort from the one the Wolves gave Wednesday, especially from Holli Wilkins (four steals) and Grace Leah Baughn (three steals), plus reserves Jordan Frazier (four steals) and Brittany Stevens.

"I don't think they missed a shot after early in the third quarter," Azar said of the Raiders. "And it was more in good shot selection than them shooting lights out. They were very smart and controlled in their halfcourt offense. We can't let them get in their halfcourt offense.

"I'm surprised Southwest Atlanta (Christian) pulled back in their press. We've got to make sure we don't pull back."