NORCROSS — Whatever words Wesleyan girls head coach Jan Azar used during halftime seemed to work.
At least for a while.
The Wolves rode a dominant third quarter to a 67-52 win over Westminster in the Region 6-AA tournament semifinals Monday at Wesleyan’s Yancy Gymnasium.
Azar needed all of the 10 minutes allowed at the break to address the issues Wesleyan (22-3) had in a stilted start.
The six-time defending state champion Wolves led just 31-24 after a first half littered with fouls.
“We have to play harder,” Azar said. “We have to get down the court. It’s got to matter to us.
“It was a very slow basketball game. I can’t control any of that, but we can get back on defense better and we can play with some heart and some intensity. We can get more of the loose balls because we want it more. Those things we can control.”
Westminster stayed within striking distance early in the third before a quick 7-0 run — sparked by a smooth 3-pointer from the corner by freshman sensation Mikayla Coombs — broke things open. The Wolves pushed the lead to as much as 23 points and finished the third quarter up 57-40.
Westminster closed the gap in the fourth when Wesleyan was called for a plethora of fouls, many of them vociferously challenged by the Wolves’ coaching staff and ultimately Azar was given a technical. Westminster went on an 8-0 run, but never was able to get the deficit under double figures.
Wesleyan converted on it’s own free throw chances down the stretch to hold off the Wildcats and earn a place in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. final against rival Greater Atlanta Christian.
“Inconsistency has plagued us,” Azar said. “And it’s not inconsistency between games. It’s inconsistency between quarters. We can be great, like we were in the third quarter, and then not show up in the fourth.
“But tomorrow is a new day.”
Coombs led the Wolves with 15 points, but the scoring was fairly well distributed. Sophomore Cairo Booker kicked in a hard-fought 13 points, senior guard Landyn Duley added 12 and Lauren Frerking had nine.
“We’re young and we need some of our older players to step up,” Azar said. “I felt like Landyn did a good job stepping up today, especially in the fourth quarter. She was getting beaten up a lot so she started playing with some intensity because it was making her mad. She was playing through the contact.”
Hannah Morgan had a game-high 17 points for Westminster, which scored 10 of its 12 fourth-quarter points from the line.