Usually, when Holy Innocents’ and Wesleyan hook up it’s a tightly-contested game that isn’t decided until the fourth quarter.
This season Holy Innocents’ has the upper hand in size and experience, and it has shown in two games thus far. The Bears (19-1), top ranked in the AJC Class A Private Top 10, beat No. 2 Wesleyan (18-3) by double digits for the second time this month on Friday, 69-49. Holy Innocents’ won the first matchup 48-34, back on Jan. 5.
This time the victory was more decisive than the final score indicates. The Bears took control from the outset, racing to an 18-8 lead after the first quarter, as freshman forward Jillian “JuJu” Hollingshead was dominant inside with nine points in the quarter.
Then in the second period, senior guard Kaila Hubbard took over. The UGA signee scored 13 of her game-high 25 points and dealt five assists – including three to Hollingshead, who finished with 17 points – as Holy Innocents’ poured it on, outscoring Wesleyan 25-10 in the quarter for a 43-18 halftime lead.
Hubbard said her team came out prepared for a physical battle. In most of the tussles with Wesleyan, Hubbard said the officials tend to let the teams play.
“We knew we would need to come out and be strong with the basketball and finish when we had a chance to finish,” Hubbard said. “[Hollingshead] did an amazing job of doing that.”
The Bears kept it up in the second half. Wesleyan head coach Jan Azar, leading one of youngest Wolves teams she has had in years, tried to change the pace a bit by trapping Holy Innocents’ once the ball crossed midcourt. But Hubbard and the Suttle sisters – senior Kennedy, a Penn signee, and sophomore Rachel – handled the pressure well. A runner by Hubbard in the final seconds of the quarter gave the Bears a 60-28 lead entering the fourth.
Wesleyan did outscore the Bears 21-9 in the final period as freshman Nicole Azar, daughter of the head coach, knocked down two three-pointers and finished with 11 points, which tied her for the team lead on the night with senior guard Amaya Register, an Old Dominion signee. But the game had long been decided.
“I thought we came out and played our brand of basketball,” said Holy Innocents’ head coach Nicole Dixon, a former assistant at Wesleyan. “We’re working on some small tweaks defensively and we were able to execute them, and we’re trying to develop a deeper bench and when those players were in there tonight they did a good job.”
Developing more depth will be a key to the Bears’ run to a state title. Hubbard said Friday night’s win will help as well.
“We always think we can come out and beat any team by 30, but this gives us a good boost of confidence,” Hubbard said. “It gives us even more motivation to keep pushing and keep the momentum going.”