Salem girls tie for top spot with win over Heritage

CONYERS - It's been a long time since the Salem girls basketball team has scored only 34 points in a game.

But Salem coach Bill Roberts will take 34 anytime as long as his team plays defense the way it did Friday night against county rival Heritage.

The Lady Seminoles (16-6 overall, 7-1 8-AAAA South) collected a 34-20 victory over the Lady Patriots (17-5, 7-1), avenging an earlier defeat and moving into a tie for first in the subregion with two games left to play.

"I knew from the beginning it was going to a very low-scoring game," Salem coach Bill Roberts said. "Tonight, we were smart enough to beat them at their own game. What I mean by that is they can play their game as long as we play good defense.

"My teams have not always played good defense in the half court, but we did tonight and that says a lot about our team. I think that was the difference in the game."

Salem, which has won six straight games, visits Eastside and Cedar Shoals next week. Heritage, which saw its nine-game winning streak snapped, hosts Cedar Shoals on Tuesday and plays at Alcovy on Friday.

If the two teams end up in a first-place tie, Heritage will get the top seed from the subregion in the Region 8-AAAA tournament because of a better record in region crossover games.

With both teams struggling to find their offensive rhythm, the first half was played at a snail's pace.

Salem's Courtney Hurt, who came into the contest averaging a shade over 26 points a game, didn't score in the first quarter. Both teams managed just six points in the period.

In the second quarter, Hurt finally got on track, scoring seven points as the Lady Seminoles built a 15-9 halftime advantage.

Heritage cut its deficit to three by the end of the third quarter, outscoring Salem 6-3.

The Lady Patriots appeared to have the momentum going into the fourth period, but on their first five possessions they turned the ball over four times and missed an open layup.

In the fourth quarter alone, Heritage turned the ball over eight times and shot just 2 of 13 from the field.

Salem also had a 36-24 advantage on the boards.

"We had a chance, but we just turned the ball over too much," Heritage coach Dave LaBarrie said. "We ended up with like 14 turnovers. Our girls didn't rebound well and they didn't box out well. Too many of our girls were sick tonight. That's why it was so important for us to win the game at our place. Salem played a good game tonight."

Hurt's 3-pointer from the right wing started a 10-2 run for Salem that gave the Lady Seminoles a commanding 28-17 advantage.

"We brought Courtney outside and she hit that three, then they had to come out there and pick her up," Roberts said. "They couldn't sit back in their zone."

Heritage's Zaneta Gray buried a trey from the left, cutting the deficit to 28-20.

But Salem hit all six of its free throw attempts in the final 90 seconds of the contest to seal the victory.

Hurt was the only player in double figures with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Ariel Wynter chipped in six points and nine rebounds for the Lady Seminoles.

Neicey Lewis and Precious Elkins paced the Lady Patriots with five points apiece.

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.