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It's win or go home time for 8-AAAA girls
Salem, Heritage, Rockdale start tournament play

CONYERS - No. 5 Salem highlights tonight's 8-AAAA girls basketball tournament matchups with a game at 5:30 p.m. against Cedar Shoals at Winder-Barrow High School. The Lady Seminoles are sandwiched between Clarke Central/Heritage (4 p.m.) and Rockdale/Madison County (8:30 p.m.).

Salem (23-2 overall) is riding a 12-game winning streak, having won their last 22 of 23 games. Salem's only two losses have been by a combined four points.

According to Salem coach Bill Roberts, the 2008-09 Region 8-AAAA coach of the year, the key is to play at Salem's tempo rather than get in a foot race with Cedar Shoals (13-11).

"My biggest concern about Cedar is their team speed. They like to score in transition, so we will have to keep that in check in order to win the game," Roberts said.

On Dec. 5, Salem topped Cedar Shoals 67-50 in its only regular season meeting. Three Lady 'Noles scored in double figures - Precious Elkins (23), Ariel Wynter (17) and Kentrell White (13). Elkins and Wynter also grabbed 11 rebounds apiece.

"This group of young ladies have kept their heads and their composure over the season. We have played many close ball games, and I don't feel that we take anyone lightly," Roberts said. "All five of the starters have been in this playoff atmosphere before, so they should know how to get mentally prepared.

"I feel like we have prepared and worked hard to get ready," he added. "At this point, you just have to go out and give it 100 percent."

Heritage (13-10) faces a Clarke Central squad (16-9) that has already beaten the Lady Patriots this season.

Heritage fell 55-44 on Dec. 2 during its fourth game of the season. The Lady Pats scored just one point in the third quarter.

In addition, Zaneta Gray - who scored a team-high 11 points for Heritage - suffered a sprained knee and was sidelined for a majority of the season.

Sarah Herrington had nine points, while Jasmine Middlebrooks chipped in seven.

Yet after the 11-point loss, the Lady Patriots ripped off seven wins in nine games. Heritage has won three of its last five games.

Meanwhile, Rockdale (6-20) is shooting for a Cinderella-like performance against Madison County (20-4).

Rockdale proved its worth after upending Monroe Area 49-40 in the play-in Tuesday evening at Loganville High School.

But the real test comes tonight against a group that has won nine straight games.

"They got some guards who can do some things," Rockdale coach Leonard Buckner said. "But we've got a couple tricks up our sleeve. Who knows what could happen?"

Madison County won its only meeting against visiting Rockdale during the regular season by 26 points. On Dec. 12, the Lady Red Raiders were victorious 71-45.

Despite a team-high 19 points by Rockdale's Miasia Burks, Madison County sisters Courtney (34) and Kayla Freeman (15) combined for 49 points.

Jason Murdock can be reached at jason.murdock@rockdalecitizen.com.

SideBar: If You Go

What Region 8-AAAA girls basketball tournament

Where: Winder-Barrow High School, Winder

Today's games:

· Clarke Central vs. Heritage, 4 p.m.

· Cedar Shoals vs. Salem, 5:30 p.m.

· Rockdale vs. Madison County, 8:30 p.m.