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Before moving on to a long conference schedule against small schools ill-equipped to handle the small-school powerhouse, Wesleyan had the Buford game to make a statement, which it did with a 48-37 victory on Buford's home floor.
|Holli Wilkins made clutch plays in Wesleyan's upset of Buford.|
Wesleyan's first test came early in the season when the Wolves pulled off a 47-46 upset over then-No. 27 Hoover (Hoover, Ala.). The narrow victory left many wondering if it was an isolated event or a preview of big things to come.
The next test came on the road, in Myrtle Beach, S.C., when Wesleyan played then-No. 24 Spring Valley (Columbia, S.C.). The powerful and athletic opponent was too much for Wesleyan and handed the Wolves their first loss of the season, 62-44. But there was no time for sulking as Wesleyan was matched up the next day with then- No. 13 Norcross (Norcross, Ga.), the team's cross-town, big-school rival.
Azar's squad couldn't channel the mojo it had from the Hoover game and lost to Norcross by a single point.
"This team is probably the deepest team we've had," Azar said.
That's high praise considering the program has won seven state championships since 2002 and has shown up in the national rankings in years past. The team has just one senior, Grace Leah Baughn, who last week was leading the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game. Baughn may not be the high-profile name that Anne Marie Armstrong, now a sophomore at the University of Georgia, was for Wesleyan in 2009, but Azar believes that balance and depth are the strengths of the team and a big star isn't needed.
In Saturday night's raucous environment at Buford, it was junior point guard Jordan Frazier who carried the load early, scoring nine straight points to knock the wind out of heavily favored Buford. With a talented team desperately making a comeback, Azar looked to another junior, Holli Wilkins, to make plays and seal the victory.
The win over Buford, Wesleyan's first in three games against its rival, catapulted the Wolves up to No. 30 this week.
Wesleyan also validated Azar's demanding schedule with the win and, with all but one player returning, Azar hopes for an even more difficult schedule next season. She and her Wolves are hoping for a shot at the 2011 Nike Tournament of Champions' Joe Smith Division. In the meantime, the sole departing senior, Baughn, will look for her fourth consecutive state title and the school's eighth since adding athletics in 1997.
Just a few weeks ago, Neptune (Neptune, N.J.) and Buford (Buford, Ga.) were a couple of high schools that shared more than the fact that they are named after the towns in which they are located. Climbing as high as fourth and sixth, respectively, in the POWERADE FAB 50 for girls' basketball, both could have been termed dark-horse candidates for a mythical high-school national championship. This week, Neptune and Buford may have relinquished that status for good.Already lacking a quality win to hold its lofty perch -- Neptune beat Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.), but so have four others, dragging the Royals out of the rankings -- the Scarlet Fliers were thumped by rival Shabazz (Newark, N.J.) in one of the Garden State's made-for-drama showdowns last Friday. Neptune followed that with a three-point squeaker over Trenton Catholic (Trenton, N.J.) during the JFK Challenge in the Bronx, N.Y. Buford, already tagged with one loss, dropped another, 48-37 to Wesleyan (Norcross, Ga.). The two victors, Shabazz and Wesleyan, rose to 13th and 30th. Shabazz, which improved on Tuesday to 16-0, certainly is in position for a top-10 finish. Neptune, if not title-worthy, still could climb into top-10 contention if it beats Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) in the Bronx on Feb. 13 during an event conducted by the Gauchos club program. On the other hand, with a victory, Potter's House could position itself for the national top spot, should the California trio at Nos. 1-3 knock themselves out during a series of postseason encounters. Like Neptune and Buford, Start (Toledo, Ohio) a few weeks ago was feeling good about its national prospects. The Spartans were ranked as high as No. 13, but lost twice, last week to Detroit Country Day (Detroit, Mich.). And now they've fallen to No. 28. Meanwhile, Detroit Country Day; St. John Vianney (Holmden, N.J.), which upset Germantown Academy (Fort Washington, Pa.) but lost by eight to Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.); and Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.), which upset Troy (Fullerton, Calif.), all jump into the FAB 50. That's how it works, girls and boys. Beat a higher-up, take care of business game after game, and you get your propers. Mess up at the wrong time and, well, there's always state.
Records are through Feb. 1, 2011 games, where reported.
Previous National Rankings: Preseason | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 |
|Rank||School (City, State)||Record||Prev|
|1||Brea Olinda (Brea, Calif.)||20-0||1|
|2||Polytechnic (Long Beach, Calif.||19-2||2|
|3||Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.)||20-1||3|
|4||Bolingbrook (Bolingbrook, Ill.)||17-2||4|
|5||Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.)||23-1||5|
|6||Riverdale (Murfreesboro, Tenn.)||22-0||7|
|7||Ben Davis (Indianapolis, Ind.)||20-0||8|
|8||St. Mary's (Stockton, Calif.)||12-2||9|
|9||Westbury Christian (Houston, Texas)||33-1||10|
|10||Lake Taylor (Norfolk, Va.)||19-0||11|
|11||St. John's (D.C.)||20-0||12|
|12||Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.)||22-4||14|
|13||Shabazz (Newark, N.J.)||16-0||43|
|14||Whitney Young (Chicago, Ill.)||18-2||15|
|15||Neptune (Neptune, N.J.)||11-1||6|
|16||North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.)||19-0||16|
|17||Monarch (Louisville, Colo.)||13-3||17|
|18||St. Mary's (Phoenix Ariz.)||20-2||18|
|19||Madison Academy (Madison, Ala.)||26-2||21|
|20||Norcross (Norcross, Ga.)||17-2||19|
|21||Spring Valley (Spring Valley, S.C.)||19-0||22|
|22||Nazareth Regional (Brooklyn, N.Y.)||17-2||23|
|23||Princess Anne (Virginia Beach, Va.)||16-1||24|
|24||Buford (Buford, Ga.)||16-2||13|
|25||Butler (Matthews, N.C.)||19-0||26|
|26||Hoover (Hoover, Ala.)||25-3||27|
|27||Goose Creek (Goose Creek, S.C.)||22-2||29|
|28||Start (Toledo, Ohio)||11-2||20|
|29||Sparkman (Harvest, Ala.)||24-1||31|
|30||Wesleyan (Norcross, Ga.)||20-2||49|
|31||Highlands Ranch (Highlands Ranch, Colo.)||12-3||32|
|32||Inkster (Inkster, Mich.)||14-0||33|
|33||Twinsburg (Twinsburg, Ohio)||14-0||34|
|34||Clarksville (Clarksville, Tenn.)||21-3||35|
|35||Cypress Falls (Houston, Texas)||33-1||36|
|36||MacArthur (Irving, Texas)||27-2||37|
|37||Troy (Fullerton, Calif.)||20-3||25|
|38||Germantown Academy (Fort Washington, Pa.)||16-3||28|
|39||Linn-Mar (Marion, Iowa)||18-1||38|
|40||Hollywood Christian (Hollywood, Fla.)||24-1||39|
|41||Midwest City (Midwest City, Okla.)||17-0||41|
|42||Memphis Central (Memphis, Tenn.)||15-8||45|
|43||Webb City (Webb City, Mo.)||16-2||44|
|44||Good Counsel (Olney, Md.)||21-1||46|
|45||Montini Catholic (Lombard, Ill.)||26-1||47|
|46||Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.)||17-0||48|
|47||Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)||12-3||50|
|48||Detroit Country Day (Detroit, Mich.)||12-0||NR|
|49||St. John Vianney (Holmdel, N.J.)||14-2||NR|
|50||Edison (Huntington Beach, Calif.)||20-2||NR|