PEACHTREE CORNERS — Historically, a loss to Holy Innocents’ in the region championship game has not kept the Wesleyan girls basketball team from its ultimate goal. For that to happen again, the two-time defending state champion Wolves need a much better performance than Saturday night.
No. 1 Holy Innocents’ handed third-ranked Wesleyan a 72-50 defeat in the Region 5-A Tournament finals, pulling away in the second half on the foul-plagued Wolves’ home court. The Bears also won the region title last season, though Wesleyan rebounded to win its second straight state title. The same thing happened in 2015.
Another showdown between the two teams in the state title game would not be a surprise.
“(I’m) definitely (expecting to see them again),” said Holy Innocents’ head coach Nichole Dixon, a longtime Wesleyan assistant. “They’re a great team, extremely well-coached. It’s tradition. It’s a big deal to be able to go into a game like this with our young team and really step up and take control of the game.”
Holy Innocents’ won the teams’ regular-season meeting 68-63 on Jan. 18, but Saturday’s rematch was never that close after the midway point of the second quarter. The Bears (22-6), up 38-30 at halftime, opened the third quarter up with a 12-0 run to push the advantage to 20. Wesleyan’s first points of the second half came with 3:22 left in the third quarter on a three-point play by A.C. Carter.
Carter led the Wolves (25-3) with 32 points, making 10 of 12 free throws, and didn’t get much offensive support from her teammates. Callie Weaver’s seven points was the closest Wesleyan player to Carter.
“(Carter) got more than we would have liked to be honest with you,” Dixon said. “But she’s a great player. So she’s going to get hers. The other kids, we’ve been studying their tendencies and I thought our kids did a good job in preparation and executing our plan.”
Wesleyan guard Paige Lyons had three first-half fouls, Nicole Azar fouled out 30 seconds into the fourth quarter and Weaver fouled out later in the fourth. The final period became a foul-fest both ways — the teams combined for 32 points, but only three field goals.
Carter could never pull the Wolves closer than 15 points in the fourth.
Rachel Suttle led Holy Innocents’ with 24 points, and Jillian Hollingshed scored 21.
“We’ve got a very, very, very young team with no seniors, a couple of juniors, five sophomores, a couple of freshmen,” Dixon said. “They did a really good job playing under control and with poise in an environment where it’s hard to do that for a lot of teams. I was most proud of them for that.”