Staff Photo: John Bohn Wesleyan's Holli Wilkins (32) battles St. Francis Keyona Hayes (20) for a rebound during the third period of Friday's game. Wesleyan defeated St. Francis 67-54.
NORCROSS -- St. Francis retooled its girls basketball roster again for another run at Wesleyan, but got the same old result Friday night.
The nationally ranked Wolves beat St. Francis 67-54 in a showdown of Class A's top two teams, improving their record to 11-0 all-time against their Region 5-A rival. No. 1 Wesleyan shook off first-half foul trouble and halted a nine-game winning streak by second-ranked St. Francis, which has now lost to the Wolves nine times in the last three-plus seasons.
St. Francis' roster, with the help of transfers, changed greatly from last season, but Wesleyan (15-0) emerged victorious in its first encounter with the revamped group.
"I feel like it was more exciting not knowing a team," said Wesleyan senior Holli Wilkins, who had a game-high 20 points to go with seven rebounds. "We knew some of them, but it was interesting to play them. ... It definitely makes us want to play when it's (St. Francis). Our region's not the strongest, so when we get a team like St. Francis we get up to play them."
St. Francis (16-3) showed it has closed the gap on Wesleyan -- its closest loss previously was 16 points -- but couldn't pull off the upset Friday on the road. It was a feeling-out game of sorts for the Wolves, as they got used to a new group of St. Francis players.
"We play a different St. Francis team every time we get on the court," Wesleyan girls coach Jan Azar said. "Obviously they have a good team this year, but as long as we stick together I think we should have the upper hand."
Wesleyan led by just five points at intermission after a rough second quarter without Wilkins and primarily ballhandler Brittany Stevens, who each sat on the bench with two fouls. Without Stevens, the Wolves had seven second-quarter turnovers and a physical St. Francis frontline began to make an impact on the glass. Keyona Hayes, who finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds, led the charge. Katie Frerking carried the offensive load in the first half, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. When the score got even tighter in the third quarter, Wilkins began to deliver. She had 11 points in the third, including a personal 7-0 run late in the quarter pushed the advantage to double digits, where it stayed most of the final quarter.
"Holli's done that for us for a long time," Azar said. "She's led us in scoring for three years. I think having her out of the game in the first half affected us, but I think it made Katie step up offensively."
Wilkins' seven straight points started an 11-0 run that put the hosts in control.
"I wasn't happy (about sitting out with two fouls)," Wilkins said. "But it made me more focused in the second half. I knew I had to get it going."
Wilkins and Frerking were the high scorers, but they had help from a group led by Taylor Blackmon. The junior guard scored all nine of her points in the second half and also had a game-high six steals.
Stevens had all seven of her points in the second half, Jordan Frazier had six points, five assists and four steals and Kaelyn Causwell had six points and five blocked shots. Azar also praised Joshlyn Belcher for her defense and rebounding (six boards off the bench). St. Francis also got 12 points from Candice Williams and 10 points and nine rebounds from Antoinette Brown. Nigia Greene had nine points but was held without a field goal in the second half.
St. Francis boys 69, Wesleyan 56
Wesleyan put four scorers in double figures, but it wasn't enough in a 69-56 loss to St. Francis on Friday night.
The Wolves trailed just 31-29 at halftime before St. Francis pulled away in the second half. Takim Williams and Will Clifton scored 15 each for Wesleyan, while Charles Mack and Shane Smith added 11 points apiece.