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NORCROSS — Wesleyan’s boys basketball team didn’t make a shot from inside the arc until the final possession of the first half. It hit five 3-pointers in the first 16 minutes, but they were isolated around long stretches of play without any points against W.B. Mohammed’s stifling 2-3 zone.

Wesleyan turned the ball over 18 times and scored just 24 points in the first three quarters, leading to a 61-46 loss at home in the first round of the Class A Private state playoffs.

“It was a combination of a little bit of us having an off day and a couple guys trying to do some things they maybe weren’t comfortable with,” Wesleyan head coach Adam Griffin said. “I just think we weren’t aggressive enough. You’ve got to punish them inside, and we weren’t aggressive enough trying to score the ball.”

The disastrous offensive performance came right from the start. Micah Smith buried a three on the first possession of the game, but the Wolves only hit one more shot from the floor the entire rest of the first quarter from there. W.B. Mohammed stayed relentless in the zone, and it had Wesleyan completely flustered. They turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter, and a lot of those turned into transition opportunities for the Caliphs.

Bilah Abdue Rahman was especially active on defense, finishing the game with three steals to go with his 10 points and four rebounds. W.B. Mohammed went on a 13-3 run in the first quarter to jump into the lead. Ahmad Abdue Rahman was the catalyst on offense, and he hit a deep three to make it 13-6 Caliphs with a minute to go in the first quarter.

The second quarter was a lot more of the same. The Wolves got nothing going against the zone, and they switched out of their own zone on defense and went man-to-man to try to stop the bleeding at the other end. It didn’t do a lot though, as W.B. Mohammed’s guards continued to slice and dice into the paint at will.

Most of those possessions ended in either an easy layup or a trip to the charity stripe, where the Caliphs finished the night 19-for-26. All of it led to a 28-17 halftime lead for the visitors, and they never relinquished that advantage.

“They’re just athletic,” Griffin said. “They’re hard to guard. And they were shooting the ball well enough against zone we had to go man-to-man, and they’re pretty quick off the dribble. They present match-up issues.”

Just as they did in the first quarter, Wesleyan hit an early three coming out of halftime and then went into another extended funk on offense. They had four more turnovers in the quarter, one of which came when Fuheen Lan picked off a pass and threw down a big dunk at the other end. Lan led the Caliphs in scoring with 19 points and nine rebounds, closely followed by Rodrigo Farius with his 16 points. Farius knocked down a three with just over a minute left in the third quarter to make the score 38-20, giving W.B. Mohammed its largest lead of the game.

The Wolves went on their best spurt of the game following that 3-pointer by Farius, hitting four shots from the floor in four minutes after knocking down a total of eight in the 24 minutes prior. Beau Brown hit a 3-pointer to cap off a 12-3 run that cut the deficit in half with 5:16 remaining, but that was as close as the Wolves would come.

“They played hard,” Griffin said. “They’ve done that all season long. We tried to make a run. They hit a couple shots to stifle that run. We just kind of waited too long to turn the offense on.”

W.B. Mohammed continued the efficient offense and strong free throw shooting down the stretch to stop the run in its tracks and hold on for the 15-point victory. The Caliphs will travel to Mt. Pisgah for the second round of the state playoffs next week.

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