CONYERS - Salem basketball split a pair of games Tuesday night against visiting Madison County.
Salem 56, Madison County 53
It all came down to a last-second 3-point attempt.
But after the miss and the final buzzer sounded, the Lady Seminoles (5-1) won their fourth consecutive game, this one against the No. 3 Lady Red Raiders (3-1).
"You kind of measure yourself on how you play against teams like that," Salem coach Bill Roberts said. "It was exciting to put a game plan together. The girls followed it through and did the things we needed to do."
In the first half, both teams remained close, which included a 16-16 tie with 7:10 left in the second quarter.
Madison County took its first lead of the game at 38-37 with 2:12 remaining in the third after a jumper by Courtney Freeman.
Freeman scored a game-high 24 points, including eight steals.
Still in the third, Salem's Precious Elkins, who finished with a team-high 21 points and nine rebounds, responded with a field goal to recapture the lead.
The Lady Red Raiders regained the lead shortly thereafter before Salem took a 43-42 advantage to end the third frame.
Madison County got to within two points in the fourth before Salem clamped down on defense, allowing 5 of 16 shooting from the field.
Arguably, the key point of the game came with 5:35 left in the fourth after a deep three-pointer from Salem's Jaleen Thomas, making it 46-42.
"That was huge," Roberts said. "If you ask what was the turning point. That gave us some cushion and made me feel like if we do the right things we can win this ball game."
Thomas finished with 12 points and two steals.
Salem's 6-foot-3 center Ariel Wynter had a double-double - 11 points and 13 boards. Amber Johnson added seven points and five steals.
"What stood out to me was the growing up of a young point guard," Roberts said of Johnson, who used crossover moves to offset the defense all night long.
Salem's Kentrell White limited Madison County's top shooter, Lauren Smith, to just two points. Previously, Smith was averaging more than 20 points per game.
Madison County 60, Salem 48
Despite taking 17 more shots, making three fewer field goals than the opposing Red Raiders, the Seminoles (3-3) never gained traction offensively.
"We've got to find a level of consistency in our playing," Salem coach Darren Wilkins said. "That's got to be the big thing right now; we have to improve the quality of our offensive play."
Salem was unable to make any headway throughout the game, even with an early lead.
Madison County's Patrick McCrary had a game-high in points (17) and rebounds (24).
"He's kind of like a Tim Duncan," Wilkins said. "He doesn't wow you with anything spectacular, but he just plays good, solid basketball. He gets in there around the basket and really competes."
Tevin Bradley led the Seminoles with 14 points on 6 of 12 shooting. Rodney Nelson added eight points.
Salem's Dramel Oubre had six points, including two rebounds, two steals and two assists.
"He probably played the best for us all the way around," Wilkins said. "I thought he just played a real solid game."
Jason Murdock can be reached at email@example.com.