ATLANTA -- For the Wesleyan boys basketball team all that stood between them and a second-round playoff game was the higher seeded 23-win Greenforest Academy Eagles in Tuesday's first round of the Class A state tournament.
Thanks to clutch performances by guards Shane Smith and Will Clifton, Wesleyan earned that second round showdown with Mt. Paran following a 52-48 win Tuesday in Atlanta.
"We've played so many close games this year," Wesleyan head coach Skip Matherly said. "This is where our schedule pays off, I think we play hands down the toughest schedule in Single A and this is where it bore fruit for us."
Clifton, who scored a team-high 17 points, looked sharp early hitting three 3-pointers in the opening half.
"Will shot the ball the best he shot it in a couple of weeks and we had to have those," he said.
Wesleyan led by one after the first quarter and extended the lead to four at the half thanks to the steady play of guard Shane Smith who finished with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.
"Shane has been our horse ... he has carried us a lot this season," Matherly said
The Wolves leaped out to a double-digit lead at 34-24 midway through the third quarter thanks to their zone defense which cut off any points in the paint for Greenforest.
"We came out and kind of matched with them and they were killing us inside," Matherly said. "So at halftime we said, 'Four of you stay in the lane, don't move,' see if they could make (outside shots)."
The zone worked early, but Greenforest, led by the 12-point, eight-rebound performance of Bubba Samsui, slowly chipped away at the lead.
The forward worked hard on both ends of the floor leading the charge to tie the game at 42 in the final quarter.
However Smith would not be denied as he calmly hit a layup late in the quarter to give his team the lead and sank his free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.