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Wesleyan on brink of fifth straight state title

Wesleyan hasn't ever had a tougher schedule.

Which is to say, no one in Class A has played in the kind of games the Wolves have this season.

In order to collect its fifth straight state title, and eighth in the nine years, battle-proven Wesleyan has one more challenge to meet. The No. 1-ranked Wolves play No. 2 Southwest Atlanta Christian at 11 a.m. today at the Macon Centreplex.

"It's the toughest schedule I have ever put together," head coach Jan Azar said. "They've risen to the occasion. We've won some close ones and lost some close ones. When you get to this point in the season, I do think that's going to make a difference."

The Wolves have just four losses this season, and only one to a Georgia team. They've gone toe-to-toe with the nation's top-ranked team at the Nike Tournament of Champions, played in the Kay Yow Girls Night Out and hosted the Battle of the Southeast this season.

Wesleyan's only loss to an in-state team was in the region finals against St. Francis, which easily defeated Southwest Atlanta Christian during a tournament in Florida on Dec. 30. But SACA (29-3) hasn't lost since, including two wins over that same St. Francis squad, and last week got back its big post Alexis Carter.

"Shavontae Naylor is the one who kind of gets them going," Azar said. "So you definitely have to watch her. But they've got a good team and you can't key on one person.

"They've got a good team that can hit from the outside, which sets up their girls inside. So I think it's going to be a good matchup for us."

One of Wesleyan's biggest strengths is its bench.

It was key in the Wolves' semifinal victory over Taylor County. Wesleyan didn't shoot particularly well from the outside or at the free-throw line -- something they spent time working on the last couple of days. But 6-foot-4 senior Kaelyn Causwell and junior Joshlyn Belcher helped lead the team to a 55-40 win and a shot at another state championship.

Azar would also like to see more emotion than the team had Wednesday.

"The first quarter, I thought we were playing with passion and I think we've got to get back to that on Saturday," Azar said. "We definitely don't expect them to hand us the trophy. Southwest Atlanta Christian has their eye on it too. We're going to have to get a little more emotional and play with some passion. That's what we're known for."

Wesleyan will also have to deal with the Warriors' quick and effective changes on defense.

"We're going to try to do what we do and make them play our game," Azar said. "But we'll definitely prepare for the things they do."

It will be the final game for four of the Wolves. Leading scorer Holli Wilkins, Jordan Frazier, Causwell and Missy Byrd are all putting on Wesleyan's green and gold for the last time.

"It's always nice to send the seniors out with a win," Azar said. "That's our goal. They've been in the program for a long time. They know each other well. They're all going to play in college, but that's a different thing than playing for your high school state championship."