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Tsirigos helps key Wesleyan win over Buford

SANDY SPRINGS -- CaraMia Tsirigos, who is headed to Indiana University on a softball scholarship after rewriting Wesleyan batting records, is more used to hitting home runs than 3-pointers.

"But basketball was always my first love," said the powerful 6-foot senior.

Until this season, though, she had earned little playing time on the basketball court. Now that's changed.

"CaraMia worked very hard this summer to earn her place on the team and she is showing just what she can do," Wesleyan coach Jan Azar said.

Buford certainly found that out Saturday in the fifth-place game of the Red Division in Peach State Basketball's Holiday Invitational at Holy Innocents' as Wesleyan improved to 11-1.

Tsirigos, recently inserted in the starting lineup, hit a 3-pointer to put Wesleyan -- down by nine points early in the fourth quarter -- ahead with less than two minutes remaining and Katie Frerking hit five free throws in the final minute for a 59-53 comeback victory over Buford.

Frerking, who has signed with Auburn, scored 12 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter and played her usual well-rounded game. But she had to share the spotlight with Tsirigos this time.

"Basketball is my second sport now, so I'm just having fun playing it with my friends," said Tsirigos, who holds school softball records for home runs, batting average, RBIs and walks. "Wesleyan has such a great basketball tradition and I wanted to be a part of it. Buford is a rival, so it was great to be a part of a win like this."

The softball catcher had eight points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots. Her late 3-pointer was her second of the game and she helped neutralize 6-foot-4 Notre Dame signee Kristina Nelson inside through much of the game.

"I always told CaraMia that she is a point guard in a post's body because she understands the game so well," Azar said. "She's going to be fantastic coach one day if she decides to do it. She loves basketball and is talented at it."

Georgia Tech signee Kaela Davis had 19 points for Buford, but fouled out on a charging call with 1:33 remaining. Wesleyan had lost point guard Brittany Stevens (nine points) on fouls a minute earlier on another close call.

Buford (6-3) had seemingly seized control in the third quarter, breaking away from a halftime tie to go up 44-37. The lead was 48-39 before Wesleyan got back in the game with an 8-0 run that featured 3-pointers by Stevens and Frerking.

Camille Anderson had 13 points for Buford. Nelson finished with eight points and six rebounds, while MacKenzie Darrah grabbed seven rebounds, matching Davis, before fouling out in the final seconds. Maya Dillard had five assists.

Wesleyan scored nine straight points after Anderson hit a 3-pointer and led 19-9 late in the first quarter. But Buford closed to 21-17 at the end of the quarter and then Davis took over in the second.

The 6-foot-2 senior had 11 of her 15 first-half points in the second quarter and the teams went into intermission tied at 30. Frerking, who scored six in the first quarter, had eight points at the break and Buford's Anderson also had eight -- all in the first quarter.

Eight players scored in the game for Wesleyan. Nikki McDonald had seven points, while Paige Mosley scored six and had five rebounds. Keevana Edwards added six rebounds as Wesleyan bounced back from a 61-60 overtime loss to Bolingbrook (Ill.) in the first round on Thursday.

"The comeback was huge for us because I thought we gave up in overtime against Bolinbrook," Azar said. "So to pull out a game like this when we were down by nine points in the fourth quarter was very important for us. It showed we could fight back."

The victory was Wesleyan's third straight over Buford and 25th in the last 27 meetings. But Buford will get another shot at its nemesis at home on Jan. 29.