Photo: David McGregor Wesleyan's Paige Mosley looks for a shot while Buford's Maya Dillard looks on during Wesleyans victory on Saturday afternoon at Buford High School.
BUFORD -- Wesleyan standout Katie Frerking perhaps summed up her team's inter-classification showdown Saturday at Buford best.
"It was a battle," the 6-foot-1 senior Auburn signee said.
When the smoke cleared, Frerking and fellow senior Brittany Stevens made sure Wesleyan wound up the sole surveyor.
Frerking scored nine of her game-high 14 points in the second half, while Stevens added some steady play down the stretch as the Wolves held off Buford for a 44-40 win.
While Frerking -- who added seven rebounds, two assists and a game-high six steals on the evening -- and Stevens (eight points, three assists, two steals) were key figures, it was depth that ultimately made the difference for Wesleyan (17-4) in a hard-fought, physical game.
"I felt like the first half was more of a football game," Wesleyan coach Jan Azar said. "The second half I thought was a little bit better basketball on both sides. ... We had some people come off the bench and do a great job. We pride ourselves on team, and this was definitely a team effort."
That team effort especially came in handy when both Frerking and Stevens went to the bench with two personal fouls early in the first half.
Buford (14-4) responded by starting the second quarter on a 10-0 run that left the Wolves with their biggest lead of the game at 18-12 following Camille Anderson's 3-pointer with 4:57 left in the first half.
But after being held scoreless for a span of 5:34, Nikki McDonald broke the ice with a pair of free throws to ignite a 9-1 run over the final 4:46 of the half.
Seven of those points came from the Wesleyan bench, including a 3-pointer by Lauren Frerking with six seconds left in the half that sent the Wolves into intermission with a 23-19 lead.
"It's great we have so many talented younger players," Katie Frerking said. "And it's really awesome when your two seniors can go to the bench and you can stay in the game with a team as good as Buford. So, we're really proud of the younger players."
Though Wesleyan led the entire second half, Buford stayed close behind the hot shooting of MacKenzie Darrah who hit a 3-pointer that pulled the Wolves as close as 25-24 with 6:36 left in the third quarter, and set up Bree Horrocks for a baseline jumper that cut the Wesleyan lead to 27-26 at the 4:05 mark.
But Darrah was helped from the court with an ankle injury after her layup that made the score 34-32 with 6:50 to play.
And though there was little scoring over the next three minutes with numerous exchanges of turnovers, but Wesleyan began to wear Buford down.
A driving layup by freshman Cairo Booker was followed by a 3-pointer from Katie Frerking and a transition layup by Stevens that gave Wesleyan its biggest lead of the game at 41-32 with 3:46 left.
Buford tried to claw its way back, twice pulling as close as four points, the second time at 44-40 after Kaela Davis' jumper with 22 seconds left.
The Wolves even got another chance on one of Maya Dillard's three steals on the game, but Wesleyan brought the defense out and forced Davis into a near 30-foot jumper that missed everything and went out of bounds with 6.2 seconds left.
And Stevens and Katie Frerking were able to dribble out the clock to put the game away, leaving both coaches convinced their respective teams will be better as they head down the stretch toward their respective region and state tournaments.
"In state, there's a lot of physical play," Buford coach Gene Durden said. "I think our kids played hard. They really didn't play smart of play together. But (this game) definitely made both of us better. When both those teams score around 40 (points), that shows you right there what kind of defense was played by both teams."
While Frerking was Wesleyan's only player in double figures, the Wolves got plenty of help from other sources like Stevens, Landyn Duley, who came off the bench to chip in eight points, and Keevana Edwards, who finished with six points and seven rebounds.
And while Davis was held well below her average with nine points, the Georgia Tech-bound senior did pull down a game-high 11 rebounds.
Buford also got 10 points from Horrocks, eight points, five rebounds and four steals from Darrah before she left the game, and four points, seven rebounds and three steals from Dillard.
Buford boys 68, Wesleyan 42
Isaiah Williams scored a game-high 22 points as Buford (15-5) broke open a one-point game after one quarter by holding Wesleyan (9-11) to just one point in the second quarter.
Kyle Doyle also had a big game for Buford with 20 points, while A.J. Davis added 15.
Will Clifton led Wesleyan with 19 points, while Charles Mack finished with nine.