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Wesleyan girls strike early, often to run past GAC

ATLANTA -- In their two regular season meetings with Greater Atlanta Christian, it took Wesleyan's girls a while to finally pull away from the Spartans.

But in the Region 6-AA tournament championship game, the Wolves didn't wait nearly as long.

Big runs at the beginning and end of the second quarter helped Wesleyan build a comfortable margin en route to a 67-48 victory Friday night at Westminster's Turner Gymnasium.

Katie Frerking had a huge game for Wesleyan (23-4) with 21 points, 12 rebounds, four assists, five steals and three blocked shots.

But the Wolves got production throughout their line-up, with all 10 players who took the floor getting into the scoring column.

And unlike the previous two meetings with GAC (20-7), they got started early.

"That was our goal -- to jump on them early," Wesleyan coach Jan Azar said. "Brittany (Stevens) and Katie, of course, did a great job. I thought the whole team did. They all just played hard. And if we play hard, and we have 10 people who can play, and they (GAC) play hard and have five people who can play, usually things turn out well for us. We played a lot of people, and I felt like everyone who went in, for the first time this season, played hard the entire time they were in and got after it."

With GAC only going to its bench sparingly, Wesleyan's depth began to take its toll in the second quarter after the Spartans managed to stay relatively close.

The lead was just 22-14 after Sydni Means scored in transition 1:31 into the period, but Wesleyan reeled off six straight points -- four of which came from Frerking -- in a 50-second span.

The run eventually reached 10-3 after a Stevens free throw with 3:22 left in the half to give Wesleyan a 32-17 lead.

"(Wesleyan) did a good job," GAC coach Cal Boyd said. "They took the ball out of Sydni's hands and made other players have to handle the ball. They did a good job of pushing the ball down the floor and pushing the tempo. And they made shots."

But the most important run came with the lead at 13 points in the final 1:36 of the half, when Wesleyan really turned up the tempo.

The Wolves' fullcourt press forced Means to give up the ball, and resulted in several GAC turnovers that sparked a a 9-0 run, which Frerking capped with a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and send Wesleyan into intermission with a 43-21 lead.

"The way we finished the second quarter -- sharing the ball for a layup, getting a stop on defense and running a play perfectly for CaraMia (Tsirigos) and Katie for Katie to hit that 3, sent us in (to halftime) the way we needed to."

GAC played better defensively in the second half, actually outscoring Wesleyan 27-25, but the Spartans never got any closer than 18 points in the second half, as the Wolves defense remained relentless.

"Give (Wesleyan) credit," Boyd said. "They were making shots and making good plays. ... (But) I thought our girls fought. We fought and did not give in. So, I was very proud of that."

Kendra Talley was the only other Wesleyan player in double-figure scoring with 10 points, but Stevens also had a solid game with seven points, seven assists, four steals and three rebounds.

Cii Cii Buford led GAC with 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds, while Means added 15 points and four steals, Brianna Cummings added 11 points -- nine on free throws -- six boards and three steals, and Jasmine Hill pulled down a team-high nine rebounds.