CONYERS - For the Salem basketball program, this season has been a tale of two teams headed in opposite directions.
The Lady Seminoles have been on a roll lately, and Saturday was no different as they dispatched Newton 62-39.
On the flip side, the Newton boys executed down the stretch, and Jamon Hawkins' floater with 18 seconds remaining was the difference for the Rams as they defeated the Seminoles 51-49 in the boys game.
Salem 62, Newton 39
The Lady Seminoles (17-6) jumped out to a 15-6 lead in the first quarter on the strength of Rebecca Mitchell's 3-point shooting, as she hit two treys, including one as time expired.
Loren Wilkins provided a spark for the Lady Rams (6-17) in the second period, scoring six points, but Salem still managed to push its lead to 13 at halftime.
As has been the recent trend, Salem blew the game open in the third quarter, outscoring the Lady Rams 17-6 to take a commanding 45-21 lead into the fourth quarter.
"I thought we were a little bit flat, a little sluggish in the first half," Salem coach Bill Roberts said. "We did a good job defensively, holding them to 15. But our passes weren't as crisp as they should be and we didn't transition the floor like we're capable of. But in the second half we turned it on and we got Courtney (Hurt) going. Once you get her going, it changes the whole game."
Newton stayed with Salem in the fourth quarter, but it was too little, too late as the Lady Seminoles cruised to yet another double-digit victory.
Since starting the season at 2-3, the Lady Seminoles have compiled a 15-3 record and ripped off seven straight wins.
While the Lady Seminoles are clearly looking ahead to the region playoffs, Newton coach Tiffany Johnson felt her team is capable of playing better.
"We weren't ready to play today," Johnson said. "We were intimidated for what reason I don't know. We have no reason to be intimidated because we can definitely play with this team. But we just didn't play well today."
Hurt has been the story all year for Salem and she didn't disappoint, scoring 22 of her game-high 32 points in the second half to lead all scorers. Mitchell chipped in with 15 points for the Lady Seminoles, including three treys.Wilkins led the way for Newton with 14 points, followed by Shay Marks with 11.
Newton 51, Salem 49
In the nightcap, Newton (15-6) came into the game looking to shake off two recent losses while Salem (7-17) was trying to build something positive, having come off a string of tough losses.
Newton set the early pace, choosing to slow things down in the opening minutes of the game. Despite five first-quarter turnovers, Newton led 10-7 heading into the second period.
The Rams pushed their lead to five in the second quarter and led 23-18 at the break.
Salem took advantage of Newton's lack of size and went to the inside game in the second half, with Zach Roddenberry scoring eight of his game-high 21 points in the third quarter.
The Seminoles only turned the ball over once in the third period, and it showed on the scoreboard as they put up 20 points and outscored Newton 20-15 to pull even at 38-38 heading into the fourth quarter.
Kentarius Farley hit his fourth 3-pointer of the game to open the final quarter for the Rams, but Roddenberry answered right back for Salem with a layup off a nice entry pass from the wing, giving the Seminoles the 42-41 lead with 5:55 to go.
Newton responded as forward Tevin Bradley scored four straight points to give the Rams a 45-42 lead with 3:11 remaining in the game.
After the two teams traded baskets, Julius Giles tied it for Salem with a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Again the two teams traded buckets, and with the score knotted up at 49, Rasmussen called his last timeout to set up the final shot.
Newton came out of the timeout with a little less than a minute to go, but Salem's size forced the Rams to keep the ball on the perimeter.
With the clock running down, Hawkins, who missed most of the quarter with an injury, took the ball over the right side with a nice hesitation dribble and hit a soft floater in the lane to put the Rams up by two with 18 seconds left.
Down by two and with one last chance, Salem got a good look at the basket. But the Seminoles' bid for the win clanged off the back iron, and Newton corralled the rebound to secure the victory.
"Hawkins made a great shot," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "He went on in there and you never know. If he had missed that or they hadn't called a foul, you don't know how it works out. It's a fragile thing, but we're doing the best we can with what we've got."
Despite another tough loss, Salem coach Darren Wilkins was happy to see his team respond in the second half and finally put together four solid quarters.
"I feel good about the game because I can see the attitude of the team has changed over the last week or so because we're not worried about ourselves individually, we're worried about the team," Wilkins said. "We talked about sticking to the plan. That was anybody's game, and Newton is a quality ball club. If we can play like we did against them, we can play with anybody we see in the playoffs."
Farley led a balanced scoring attack for Newton with 14 points, followed by Bradley (12), Hawkins (10) and Montrell Grimes (9).
Salem's Roddenberry led all scorers with 21 points, including 10-of-11 from the free-throw line, while Giles added 11 points and a team-high six rebounds.