Staff Photo: John Bohn Wesleyan's Will Clifton (2) is fouled by Dade County's Clynt Bell (22) during the second period of a Class AA first round state basketball playoff game played at Wesleyan on Wednesday. Clifton scored his 1000th career point for Wesleyan during the first half of the game.
NORCROSS -- Down four points with 30 seconds remaining, Jaye Rochell brought Wesleyan's boys back from the dead.
The senior nailed a 3-pointer to make it a one point game and on the final possession as time expired tipped in a missed shot to tie the first round playoff game at 68-68 and send it to overtime.
But the respite from season's end lasted just seconds more. Dade County scored a quick five points in overtime and pulled away at the free-throw line for a 80-72 win.
"They shoot it from anywhere," first-year Wesleyan head coach Hodges said. "They shot the ball pretty well."
Dade County hit 10 3-pointers in the win and scored 20 more points from the free-throw line. At first the Wolverines hung with Wesleyan with their shooting and, in the end, put the Wolves away.
For three quarters, Wesleyan managed to repel the defensive pressure of Dade County, scoring after breaking the full-court press and managing the clock regardless of the unending pressure. After Dade opened the game with a basket, Wesleyan didn't trail again until midway through the third quarter.
Wesleyan took a 22-19 lead after the first quarter, getting seven points from Will Clifton, who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career with the second of two free-throws in the quarter. In the second quarter, it was all Clifton again, scoring 12 of the Wolves' 16 points on his way to a game-high 35 points. He scored 10 of Wesleyan's 13 in the third quarter, but after picking up his fourth foul in the fourth quarter his production plummeted.
And against the Wolverines, Clifton was in a scoring battle with two sharpshooters. Cole Birchfield was a point behind Clifton with 34, including three 3-pointers and 15 of 17 from the free-throw line and Clynt Bell scored 22 points off of five 3s, many taken with a hand in his face or from well beyond the 3-point line.
Rochell picked up for Clifton in the fourth quarter, scoring nine of his 13, including the game-tying layup.
"He hit some big shots down the stretch," Hodges said. "I was proud of the way they battled back in the fourth quarter."
Wesleyan girls 85, Armuchee 29
In the most typical of ways, Wesleyan started fast against Armuchee and never let up.
Led by the energy and unselfish play of point guard Brittany Stevens, the entire Wolves' team rattled and harassed the Indians into 44 turnovers and sailed to a 85-29 win in the Class AA playoffs first round.
"We are playing good, team basketball right now," head coach Jan Azar said of her Wolves, who host Bremen on Friday at home.
And no player typifies the team attitude like Stevens. She scored just four points, but had six assists, four steals and countless other deflections, forcing loose balls.
"I tease (assistant coach and former Wesleyan player) Carolyn Whitney that Brittany is the best point guard I've ever had," Azar said. "Brittany does everything, she doesn't stop, she's going hard the entire time. Just touching the ball and causing chaos -- she does."
And Stevens doesn't care about scoring or recognition, she happily made pass after pass to Katie Frerking, who racked up 35 points in just three quarters, and seven other Wesleyan players who scored in Wednesday's win.
"It's just a team thing," Stevens said. "Our team is winning by 50 points, no way am I going to complain about just scoring four points."
Keevana Edwards was the only other Wolves' player in double figures, scoring 10 points. Kendra Talley scored nine, Paige Mosley eight and Landyn Duley chipped in seven.