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Special atmosphere expected in Buford-Wesleyan girls showdown

Any meeting between the girls basketball teams from Wesleyan and Buford in recent years has been special, and the same should be the case this afternoon, when the two teams square off at Buford for a 5 p.m. tipoff.

But there are a few differences in this meeting.

For one thing, it won't be the first between the two programs that share the same general color scheme (green and gold), mascot (Wolves) and winning traditions.

The two teams met as part of the Peach State Basketball Holiday Invitational in December, during which Wesleyan came from behind for a 58-53 win, marking the first time the two teams have had multiple meetings in a season since they were both in Region 6-AA during the 2007-08 season.

But while they might've gotten an extra look at each other, there likely won't be any change in the game plan for either team this afternoon.

Buford (14-3) will try to take advantage of its size behind four players standings 6-foot-2 or taller, all of whom are Division I college-bound -- seniors Kaela Davis (6-2, Georgia Tech), Mackenzie Darrah (6-4, Elon) and Kristina Nelson (6-4, Notre Dame) and 6-5 junior Bree Horrocks (Purdue).

Trying to find the right combinations to best utilize that height has been a work in progress according to coach Gene Durden, but one that is continuing to move forward, with the Wolves having won eight straight heading into Friday's Region 7-AAA game against Fannin County.

"We've had some injuries and other adversity to overcome throughout this season," Durden said. "But now we're getting some people back, and we've been playing good basketball lately. This is the time of year when you want to start playing your best basketball."

Wesleyan (16-4 heading into Friday's Region 6-AA game against Lovett) is also playing good basketball lately, having won five of its last six after a tough stretch during the holidays behind the leadership of seniors Katie Frerking and Brittany Stevens and sophomore Nikki McDonald.

And tonight's game sits in the middle of what could be a particularly tough part of the Wolves' schedule, as it is situated directly in between region games against defending Class AA state champion Lovett on Friday and perennial state contender GAC on Tuesday.

"No, you can say dumb," joked Wesleyan coach Jan Azar when asked about the timing of the scheduling of tonight's game against Buford.

"Actually, the (Lovett and GAC games) were set by the region, and the only time of year Gene and I can usually schedule this game each year is the last weekend in January.

"But we're looking to compete for a state championship, and Buford is looking to compete for a state championship. So, this will help both of us prepare for the (respective classifications') state tournament."