DACULA - State seeding and county bragging rights were fought over Saturday at Dacula High School as the Heritage girls and the Salem girls faced off in the consolation game of the Region 8-AAAA basketball tournament.
But after a hard-fought contest, it was the Lady Seminoles who captured the win, outlasting the Lady Patriots 60-50.
Both the Lady Seminoles and Lady Patriots earned state tournament berths earlier in the week before losing in the semifinal round Friday, making Saturday's matchup a battle to see who ends up as the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds from 8-AAAA.
Saturday also was the rubber match between Heritage and Salem as the two teams split the first two games during the regular season.
Salem coach Bill Roberts knew his team would need to play one of its best games of the season in order to beat a scrappy Lady Patriots team. That's exactly what he got.
"I think this was one of the best games we've played in a while," Roberts said. "We protected the basketball. We stayed focused the whole time. And even when it was getting very physical, we kept our composure. We kept playing basketball and didn't let them (Heritage) take us out of our game."
Salem led 15-12 after the first quarter, but Heritage cut the lead to 28-27 at halftime.
The Lady Seminoles clamped down defensively in the third quarter, holding Heritage to just five points.
Meanwhile, Salem built a double-digit lead and held it for the remainder of the game.
One of the reasons Salem was able to pull away was the dominant play of forward Courtney Hurt.
Heritage held Hurt in check the first two times Salem and Heritage played, holding her to 16 points in each game - well below her average.
This time, however, Hurt was spot-on, scoring a game-high 30 points in the win. Hurt added 11 rebounds for a double-double. She was stellar from the free throw line, hitting 16 of 18 shots.
Salem's Rebecca Mitchell also had a solid game, scoring 13. Mitchell was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line.
Heritage was led by Neicey Lewis with 13 points and Sarah Herrington with nine.
Still, it wasn't enough on a night when the Lady Patriots couldn't afford to make any mistakes.
"We made some mistakes. We had some turnovers we shouldn't have had and we took some shots we shouldn't have," Heritage coach Dave LaBarrie said.
Salem and Heritage are now locked into the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds, respectively, in the state tournament. Salem will play the loser of Mays and Southwest DeKalb, while Heritage faces the winner. Both matchups will be on the road for the local teams.
Brandon Evans can be reached at email@example.com.