CONYERS - The Salem basketball teams seem to be going in opposite directions as the boys and girls earned yet another split Saturday, with the girls winning their game, while the boys lost another close one.
Salem senior forward Courtney Hurt came into the game against Jones County as the state's leading scorer at 26.8 points per game. All she did was score 33 in leading the Lady Seminoles to a 56-46 win over the Lady Greyhounds, who entered the contest ranked No. 6 in Class AAAA in the gasports.com poll.
The boys, on the other hand, let one slip away as key turnovers and missed opportunities plagued coach Darren Wilkins' Seminoles in a 55-51 defeat.
"I didn't think we played with a whole lot of energy tonight. Maybe it was the Rockdale game (Friday) night, but we can't use that as an excuse," Wilkins said. "We had some bad luck and different things along the way, but we have to start making our own fortune happen for us. We can't sit there and wait for it to happen. We have to make it happen and be aggressive."
The two teams came out shooting as they traded 3-point buckets to begin the game.
But Jones County built an 11-7 advantage off the strength of six fast-break points and led 17-13 at the end of the first period.
In the second quarter, the Greyhounds continued to run the floor, but Salem (7-13 overall) kept it close and with 1:58 to play in the half, Seminole guard David Raudebaugh hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to knot the game up at 22-22. The teams went into the locker room tied 24-24.
Salem looked poised to take command of the game in the second half when the Seminoles scored six quick points and led by three early on in the third quarter. But shortly after they took the lead, things began to unravel for the Seminoles.
Jones County scored seven straight points, five off of turnovers, until Salem's Julius Giles hit a 3-pointer to bring the Seminoles to within two at 35-33. But Jones County continued to run the floor and score off Salem's turnovers and missed shots, building a 43-36 lead heading into the final period.
Again, the Seminoles made a run to close the gap. Down 45-41, Salem had a chance to pull even. But the Seminoles failed to convert two straight break-away layups off back-to-back steals that would have tied the game.
The Greyhounds extended their lead to six until Raudebaugh hit his second trey of the night for the Seminoles to cut the deficit back to three with 1:31 to play.
Jones County made one of two free-throws and Salem again had a chance. But another turnover on the ensuing possession dashed the comeback hopes and Jones County made its free-throws down the stretch.
"We've had several games we've won three quarters and lost one big and it's cost us the game." Wilkins said. "We try to break it down and win each quarter. We split the first two (quarters) and lost that third one big and that put us in this spot. We just have to be consistent and play better."
Tyone Elliot and Giles scored 12 points apiece to lead the Seminoles followed by Jarrett Brown (9) and Zach Roddenberry (8).
The girls game wasn't that close. Salem (14-6 overall) used a 22-point second quarter to build a 32-19 lead at halftime, and, while Hurt scored 17 points in the opening half, it was the defense that impressed Salem coach Bill Roberts.
"I think we did a great job defensively," Roberts said. "Jaleen Thomas did a great job on their best shooter, Brandy Jones, and I don't think she even hit a 3, and that was real big tonight. Kentrell White did a great job defending their point guard and made her really work for everything she got."
Neither team found much of a rhythm in the third quarter as Hurt scored 10 of Salem's 12 points in the period to give the Lady Seminoles a 44-27 lead heading into the final frame.
Just when it appeared like Salem was going to cruise to its fourth straight win, and ninth in its last 10 games, the Lady Greyhounds went on a 9-2 run to begin the quarter.
But after a timeout, Ariel Wynter hit two straight offensive putbacks to stabilize things, and Jones County was never able to get the deficit smaller than 10.
"We called that timeout and we knew they were going to try to stop Courtney," Roberts said. "Ariel was going to have to be big on the boards and do some good stuff and she just came up big for us."
Hurt's 33 points led all scorers, while Wynter also added 11 points for the Lady Seminoles. Hurt added five rebounds, two blocks and a steal to cap off her big night.