A-Private Girls: Wesleyan 61, Holy Innocents’ 44

In the teams' fourth-straight finals meeting, Wesleyan won its third of four.

ATLANTA — Wesleyan trailed 14-11 at the end of the first quarter but remained defensively committed and dominated the next three quarters to run away with the program’s record-breaking 13th state title with a 61-44 win Friday at McCamish Pavilion.

The two teams have met four straight times in the state finals; this is Wesleyan’s third win in that stretch.

The Wolves, which were swept by the Golden Bears this season in three meetings, stole momentum in the second quarter as Holy Innocents’ shot just 3-of-17 from the field. Wesleyan went into the half up 27-22. Sophomore Avyonce Carter was especially effective in the first-half action and paced the Wolves with 11 points and nine rebounds.

“We did a really good job defensively and we changed some things up for the second half even though our defense was working,” explained Wesleyan head coach Jan Azar after the game. “We wanted to show something different. And we changed up our offense and put Sutton West on that free-throw line and she attacked the basket really well.”

West scored 11 of her team-high 17 points in the second half, and Paige Lyons scored all 10 of her points after the break. Holy Innocents’ looked for answers, but Wesleyan continued to finish strong at the basket and its ball movement created more space for the Wolves to attack.

“We’ve been working on it the entire season,” said Azar. “Obviously, the first few times we met them this season we were not very good at it. We did a much better job spacing them out today and opening up the basket for Sutton to get in there and for (Avyonce Carter) to get in there. We had some key three-pointers, Amaya Register distributed the ball so well, Paige Lyons attacked that basket when she should, and I just feel like we did a really good job. But it was our defense that led to our offense and giving them just one shot at the basket by making sure we were boxing out that also made a big difference. We were a smaller and younger team and we had to box them out and I felt like we did a really good job.”

Kaila Hubbard (18 points) and Jada Farrell (13) led Holy Innocents’ in scoring, and freshman Jillian Hollingshead hauled in 16 rebounds to go with her five blocks and three steals. The Golden Bears finish their season 29-2. Wesleyan, which started two sophomores (Callie Weaver and Carter) and a freshman (Lyons), finishes its season 26-4 and closes out a championship win over the Golden Bears for the second-straight year and third time in four seasons.

“Towards the beginning of the season, there were times when we were looking at the team and wondering if they were going to get this and understand what it was going to take,” said Azar. “Especially into that second Holy Innocents’ game when they really beat us. They beat us by 20 points (69-49). So we had to fix some things, correct some things and really just get better each game. But we got better and it definitely showed today.”

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