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Buford, Wesleyan girls to face challenges this week

File Photo Wesleyan's Nikki McDonald, center, drives to the basket past Oak Hill's Jodie Cornelie (4) and Taneesha Greaves (3) during a game last season.

File Photo Wesleyan's Nikki McDonald, center, drives to the basket past Oak Hill's Jodie Cornelie (4) and Taneesha Greaves (3) during a game last season.

After four straight trips out of state, the Wesleyan girls basketball team will be staying close to home during this Christmas break. That doesn't mean a drop in competition, though.

The unbeaten Wolves will compete in Peach State Basketball's three-day Holiday Invitational beginning today at Holy Innocents' and they are in the stacked Red Division of the 32-team event.

Riverdale of Murfeesboro, Tenn., returns after winning titles in the first two years of the tournament and the unbeaten team is ranked No. 6 nationally by both USA Today and ESPN.com.

Buford lost to Riverdale for the Holiday Invitational championship in 2010 and returns to the event for the third straight year.

Wesleyan (9-0) will play Bolingbrook (Ill.) in the first round today at 1:45 p.m., while Buford (5-1) is scheduled to face the Academy of Holy Cross (Md.) at 6:15 p.m.

Wesleyan, shooting for a record-tying fifth consecutive state title, lost to Bolingbrook last year in the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona.

"We're glad to be able to stay home and still play really good competition," said coach Jan Azar, who had taken teams to Arizona and South Carolina twice each the past four years. "We're in a tough bracket, but we want that. You want to play good teams. It makes you better."

Also in the Red Division are New Hope (N.C.) and Georgia teams St. Francis and Alcovy.

Wesleyan and Buford are on different sides of the bracket, so they can't meet until Saturday.

Four other Gwinnett County teams are in the Holiday Invitational. Duluth (7-3) and Mill Creek (7-4) will compete in the White Division, while Archer (7-2) and Peachtree Ridge (3-7) are in the Silver Division.

Holy Innocents' two gyms are being used. Duluth will play Germantown Academy (Pa.) at 3 p.m. and Mill Creek will face Nova (Fla.) at 7:30 p.m. Archer is matched with J.L. Mann (S.C.) at noon and Peachtree Ridge plays Farragut (Tenn.) at 1:30 p.m.

Wesleyan may be staying home for a change, but Norcross is hitting the road once again.

The Blue Devils (8-1) are at the Nike Interstate Shootout in Oregon and will play Springfield today in an opening-round match-up of two of the top players in the nation.

Mercedes Russell of Springfield has signed with Tennessee, while Diamond DeShields is headed to North Carolina. They have led their teams of rankings of No. 17 and No. 20, respectively, in USA Today.

Meanwhile, North Gwinnett is in Florida for the 16-team Naples Holiday Shootout, which began Wednesday. The Bulldogs, led by Maryland signee Lexie Brown, went into the Christmas break with a 7-0 record.

HOLIDAY INVITATIONAL

What: Peach State Basketball girls tournament

When: Today-Saturday

Where: Holy Innocents' in Sandy Springs

Format: 32 teams divided into four eight-team divisions

Gwinnett teams: Wesleyan and Buford (Red Division), Duluth and Mill Creek (White Division), Archer and Peachtree Ridge (Silver Division)