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Wesleyan girls begin quest for seventh straight girls basketball title

NORCROSS— The Wesleyan girls basketball team kicked off its pursuit of a seventh straight state championship in dominating fashion on Friday night.

The Wolves defeated Union County 82-26 in the first round of the Class AA state basketball tournament at Yancey Gymnasium. Mikayla Coombs was the leading scorer with 12 points and five rebounds, and every player who entered the game for Wesleyan scored at least two points.

“I liked that we played as a team tonight,” Wesleyan head coach Jan Azar said. “I think that everyone got in the scoring column that was in the book. So I liked the sharing of the basketball, and I thought we did a good job in the second half in our man defense with a lot of people playing.”

Azar’s team took control of the game from the opening tip-off with full-court pressure on Union County. The Panthers repeatedly turned the ball over leading to fast-break opportunities for Wesleyan, and went into the half down 40-16.

“I thought we did a good job in the first half pressuring the basketball,” Azar said of the fast start.

Veterans Keevana Edwards and Nikki McDonald carried the scoring load in the first half with eight points each. Edwards, a senior Stetson signee, finished the game with 10 points and five rebounds. McDonald, a junior forward, finished with 10 points of her own.

Thanks to a quick start by the starters, Azar was able to let a slew of young players get their first taste of the state tournament on Friday night. Freshman center Natalie Armstrong was impressive with 10 points and five rebounds, while fellow freshman Devyn Lowe collected eight points.

Azar said the playing time for the younger players towards the end of the year won’t be beneficial just moving forward in this year’s tournament, but also will serve as a springboard into next season.

“It’s very important. They play a lot for us during the season anyway,” Azar said. “But especially towards the end of the season moving into next year so that they can be ready to keep going with what we have going.”

Wesleyan will host the winner of Calhoun and Columbus Spencer on Monday in the second round of the tournament. Between now and then Azar wants her team to focus on improving defensively and finishing opportunities inside the paint.

“Continuing to work on our defense,” she said. “We’re doing a better job moving without the basketball and sharing the ball. We want to do a better job in our press and we want to do a better job on the boards. Finishing around the basket with contact. It’s rough in there, but we need to finish. We don’t want to count on a foul — we need to finish — if we get fouled that’s extra but we need to finish around the basket.”