CONYERS - Salem's basketball teams put on a display of teamwork as they swept Mount Zion to start the season Tuesday.
The Lady Seminoles had four girls in double-digit scoring in their 66-36 win, while the Salem boys (1-0) also had four players in double digits to sweep the Bulldogs with a 77-67 win.
"We've been preaching team first. It's harder to beat 12 or 13 guys than it is to beat two or three," Salem boys coach Darren Wilkins said. "I think it was a good lesson for us to understand to play hard all the time and have the right attitude."
Ten Seminole players put points on the board. Terrence Bennett paced the team with 16 points, followed by Tevin Bradley (13), Jonathon Slade (13) and Dramel Oubre (12).
Bradley put the Seminoles in the lead with a 3-pointer and a basket to start the game. But the Bulldogs (0-1) took an 11-5 lead after the team missed four free-throws.
However, Salem regained the lead 14-13 to end the opening period on a Bennett trey for the final basket.
Mount Zion's Glenn Mitchell scored five points in the closing minutes of the first half, giving the Bulldogs a 31-30 lead. But Slade was able to drain the last two baskets of the half to give the Seminoles a 34-31 halftime lead.
After taking a 50-48 lead to start the fourth quarter, the Seminoles, behind the play of Oubre, jumped out to a 65-53 lead halfway through the final period.
"He's like the Energizer bunny. He was all over the place," Wilkins said. "When he plays hard, he's a great asset. Once he came in and got going, he was all around the ball. He was making stuff happen, and that's infectious. That's what this team has to understand, that everybody has to bring it every night. It's hard to beat a team that does that."
Just as when it looked like Salem going to get the win, Mount Zion made a charge, closing the gap to 69-67 with less than two minutes left on the clock.
But the Seminoles were able to maintain their composure to score 10 points while keeping the Bulldogs off the scoreboard.
"Even in the scrimmage, sometimes they get a little loose with the ball and we overhandle it. When we move the ball crisp and sharp, good stuff happens," Wilkins said. "That is a concern, but at the same time it's something we can get better at. It's just going to take a little work."
Leading Mount Zion in scoring were Chris Catchings (20) and Rakim Watson (16)
The Lady Seminoles (1-0) and the Lady Bulldogs (0-1) found themselves in a long-distance shootout to start their game.
After Kentrell White gave Salem the lead with the first basket of the game, Mount Zion's Tierra Newell put the Lady Bulldogs in the lead with back-to-back 3-pointers before Jaleen Thomas hit a three of her own to make it a 6-5 game.
Newell hurt Salem with 10 points in the first quarter, but the Lady Seminoles were able to overcome, taking a 19-16 lead.
Salem took a 26-21 lead into the locker room.
"We couldn't get our offense rolling," Salem girls coach Bill Roberts said. "Defensively we were fine except that we lost (Newell) a couple of times; she was their shooter. She took some long three's and we just didn't step to it. She hurt us a little bit in the first half then we adjusted that in the second half."
The girls were able to make adjustments in the second half, which not only shut down Newell, who had one basket in the second half to finish the game with 13 points. They also got their offense to put points on the board.
The Lady Seminoles were able to score 17 points in the third and 23 in the fourth while holding the Lady Bulldogs to nine and six points in the last two quarters.
"I felt like the second half was much better," Roberts said. "In the first half they came out in an abnormal-type defense; it was a junk defense that they were playing. It threw us off because it was kind of hard for us to get it inside. They were playing scrappy and ragged, and that made us play a little scrappy and ragged, too."
Salem's Ariel Wynter had a double-double, scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 boards.
"I said, 'you're (Wynter) the difference in this game.' She came out in the second half and decided that she was going to make a difference, and she did," Roberts added.
Other Lady Seminoles who scored in double digits were Precious Elkins (21), Thomas (14) and White (11).
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.