CONYERS - There is a lot at stake tonight in Region 8-AAAA South, but no game is more pivotal than the Heritage-Salem girls game.
The Heritage girls (17-4 overall, 7-0 Region 8-AAAA South) have steamrolled the competition in the subregion this season.
But if the Lady Patriots want to stay perfect in subregion play, they will have to get by Salem (15-6, 6-1) tonight at Salem High School.
The Lady Patriots topped the Lady Seminoles 50-43 last time at Heritage, but Lady Pats' coach Dave LaBarrie said he's expecting a much tougher matchup this time around.
"They're good. And this time, it's at their place," LaBarrie said. "They're going to be ready. We've got to bring our 'A' game. We can't come out not ready to play. It's always tough on the road and we'll be facing probably the best player in the region in Courtney Hurt."
Hurt has been on a tear lately, putting up 20- to 30-point efforts nightly. She set the school record with a 41-point performance last week against Cedar Shoals.
Still, Salem coach Bill Roberts knows it will take more than just Hurt to top a venerable Lady Pats' squad
"First and foremost, we have to shoot the ball well. We've got to try and control the tempo of the game," Roberts said. "We've got to play well defensively and win the battle on the boards. Also, our guards have to play better than their guards."
But tonight's game isn't just a county and subregion rivalry game. It's also important because both Heritage and Salem could still end up as a No. 3 seed in the Region 8-AAAA Tournament.
Although Heritage is 7-0 and Salem is 6-1, if Salem beats Heritage and both teams lose to Cedar, there will be a three-way tie for first in the subregion.
"I think that it's very important that we win this game and at least pull even with them (Heritage). Both teams still have to play Cedar Shoals," Roberts said. "Cedar is going to play a big role. The team that is first can still finish third."
In other girls action, the Lady Jaguars will entertain Rockdale, while Alcovy and Eastside have a battle in the basement in the 8-AAAA South standings.
On the boys side, the Rockdale-Cedar Shoals game looks to have the most meaning as both teams find themselves still chasing Heritage.
A Rockdale win would move the Bulldogs back into a tie for second with Cedar Shoals. The Bulldogs would own the tiebreaker, having already topped the Jaguars once this season. A Cedar Shoals win would all but seal the top two spots on the boys side.
The subregion-leading Patriots travel to take on the slumping Seminoles, while Alcovy and Eastside collide in another game of county bragging rights.
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: 8-AAAA South standings
Cedar Shoals 5-2
Cedar Shoals 5-2
Heritage at Salem
Rockdale at Cedar Shoals
Eastside at Alcovy