CONYERS - The Salem girls and Heritage boys passed their final tuneups Friday night for the Region 8-AAAA tournament.
Neither of the games was easy in the battle of Rockdale County rivals.
In the girls game, Salem (22-2 overall, 8-0 in 8-AAAA South) completed perfect records in the subregion and on its home floor by rallying for a 48-43 victory over Heritage (13-10, 4-4).
The Heritage boys (17-7, 6-2) held off a fourth-quarter surge by Salem (4-19, 0-8) to claim a 66-52 victory.
All four squads will be in action in next week's Region 8-AAAA tournament.
Salem 48, Heritage 43
Heritage's strong defensive effort and some foul trouble threw Salem out of rhythm in the first half.
Jana Dixon and Giovanni Sims combined for 13 first-half points as the Lady Patriots built a 21-14 halftime advantage.
"In all honesty, I felt like Heritage did a wonderful job defensively in the first half," Salem coach Bill Roberts said. "They shut down what we do best, and they did a wonderful job of it."
Sarah Herrington's three-point play near the end of the third period sent Heritage into the final frame with a 30-26 advantage.
If not for some poor free-throw shooting, the Lady Patriots could have established a larger lead. Heritage made just 4 of 16 shots from the charity stripe in the first three quarters.
With Heritage bottling up Salem's post players by double-teaming, the Lady Seminoles needed to hit some outside shots.
Shardai Harrison started the Salem rally by hitting the first of four straight 3-pointers, cutting to the Heritage lead to 35-33.
Senior Precious Elkins drilled the second straight 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 37-36.
Jaleen Thomas followed with a trey from the left corner, giving the Lady Seminoles their first lead of the game with 3:57 remaining.
After a Dixon layup for Heritage, Harrison followed with another Salem 3-point bomb, this time from the left corner, for a 42-39 lead.
"What we had to do tonight is knock down some outside shots," Roberts said. "On four straight possessions, we hit threes - we had to. It changed the game."
The Lady Seminoles held on from that point to wrap up the sweep of their county rivals.
Elkins scored 13 of her team-high 17 points in the second half for Salem. She also chipped in a team-high nine boards. Harrison finished with 11 points, while Thomas and Amber Johnson each added eight.
Sims collected 17 points and five rebounds for the Lady Patriots. Dixon finished with 11 points and eight boards.
Heritage 66, Salem 52
The Patriots fashioned a 35-18 halftime lead thanks to the strong inside play of senior center Justin Jones.
Jones had a double-double in the first half with 15 points and 10 rebounds as Heritage appeared to be cruising.
The Patriots stretched their lead to 21 points in the third quarter, but then the Seminoles rallied.
Armond Kendrick hit two 3-pointers for Salem to spark a 10-3 run to close out the third frame, slicing Heritage's lead to 51-39.
At one point in the fourth quarter, the Seminoles had scored 12 straight points, cutting the Patriots' advantage down to 51-46 with 6:08 left in the game.
Antony Armstrong played a key role for Salem, scoring six points in the final frame.
But Heritage countered with an 8-0 run over a stretch of 3:21 to put the game away. Jones started it with a fast break layup and Shakeem Mitchell finished it off with another layup.
"We had that big lead and I think we got a little happy and satisfied," Heritage coach Ron Bradley said. "They started making a few shots and we got some people in foul trouble, and all of sudden it's a struggle for us. They made a great run to get it to five.
"We didn't want to lose this game because we wanted some momentum going into the region tournament."
Jones finished the game with 19 points, 16 boards and five blocked shots for Heritage. Miles Harris had 16 points and Mitchell finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Garry Peters added nine points and eight boards.
Tevin Bradley had 22 points and four steals to pace Salem, while Armstrong finished with 13 points. Kendrick finished with nine.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.