CONYERS - The Heritage basketball teams are starting to look like serious contenders in Region 8-AAAA South.
Both Heritage squads remained tied for first place in the subregion after chalking up a home-court sweep against county rival Salem on Tuesday night.
In the girls game, Heritage (13-4 overall, 3-0 in 8-AAAA South) rallied from an early 15-point deficit to end a 10-game losing streak to Salem (10-6, 2-1) with a 50-43 victory.
The Heritage boys (13-5, 2-1) played one of their best games of the season, cruising to an 85-57 victory over the Seminoles (7-9, 1-2).
In the opener, the Salem girls appeared to throw a knockout punch early, building a 17-2 lead after Rebecca Mitchell's 3-pointer in the opening seconds of the second quarter.
But right before halftime, the Lady Patriots found a spark in an unlikely place.
Salem coach Bill Roberts was nailed with a technical foul, and Heritage's Sarah Herrington's hit one of the two free throws. On the ensuing possession, Precious Elkins scored off a rebound just before the buzzer, as the Lady Patriots finished the half on an 8-0 run, closing the deficit to 30-27.
"I don't know what happened in that first quarter. Everything went wrong for us, but the end result was OK," Heritage coach Dave LaBarrie said. "I think the tech helped us right before halftime."
In the second half, LaBarrie made some key changes on defense, including a switch to a zone with Neicey Lewis playing the middle.
The Lady Seminoles struggled against the zone in the third quarter, hitting only 3 of 13 shots, but they still managed to take a 40-37 lead into the final frame.
With 6:14 left in the contest, Jana Dixon hit two free throws to give Heritage its first lead of the game at 41-40. The Lady Patriots reeled off five more points, building a 46-40 advantage with 1:10 remaining.
Salem's Courtney Hurt scored her team's only points of the final period on a 3-pointer with 57 seconds left, cutting the deficit to 46-42. In fact, the Lady Seminoles shot only 15.4 percent from the field (4 of 26) in the second half.
"We went to a zone in the second half, and then they couldn't figure it out," LaBarrie said. "My kids did a great job tonight. They played hard and they listened. I'm proud of them; it was a big win."
Herrington tossed in four free throws in the final 55 seconds to wrap up the victory for the Lady Patriots.
Elkins paced Heritage with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Herrington chipped in 12. Jasmine Middlebrooks and Lewis both finished with eight.
Hurt had a game-high 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Lady Seminoles, while Mitchell added 12.
"I felt like we had the momentum and the tempo in the first half and Heritage controlled the second half," Salem coach Bill Roberts said. "We really had a scoring drought in the fourth quarter and just couldn't hit a shot. I felt like when they switched to a zone, we got open shots, but they just didn't fall. I give them credit for slowing down the pace of the game and preventing us from running in transition.
"We have to be able to score when a team collapses in the paint. We will figure it out."
In the boys game, Key Wade's strong first-half play helped the Patriots take command. Wade scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half, as Heritage built a 35-24 lead by halftime. Wade also had six assists and three steals for the Patriots.
After that, Juron Dobbs and Shakeem Mitchell took over for Heritage in the second half.
Mitchell, who didn't even take a shot in the first quarter, scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half. Dobbs equaled Mitchell's 17-point output in the second half and finished with a game-high 26 points.
"Our guys played a great ball game. That was one of our better ball games of the year. I thought we made some beautiful passes," Heritage coach Ron Bradley said. "They shot 60 percent in the first half and were down by 11; that's just hard to believe. It was a good win for us and it sets up a big one for us Friday against Cedar Shoals in Athens.
"Our bench is getting stronger and that's going to make us a lot better basketball team. We're glad to get some other guys contributing."
The Heritage duo outscored Salem 34-33 in the second half.
The Seminoles suffered an even bigger blow when senior center Zach Roddenberry was ejected after two technical fouls moments apart in the third quarter. Roddenberry led Salem with 17 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.