WINDER - Friday the 13th proved to be quite unlucky for both the Salem and Heritage girls basketball teams.
As a result, the season ended for both after falling to Cedar Shoals and Clarke Central, respectively, in the first round of the 8-AAAA region tournament Friday night at Winder-Barrow High School.
Cedar Shoals handed top-seeded Salem just its third loss of the season by a final of 58-46, pulling off the biggest upset of the evening.
Despite a commanding 15-point lead entering the fourth quarter, Clarke Central held on for a 58-54 decision over Heritage.
Cedar Shoals 58, Salem 46
Salem (23-3 overall) lost two games during the regular season by a combined four points. Cedar Shoals managed to beat the Lady Seminoles by 12.
"(Cedar Shoals) really did a good job tonight of controlling the game. They didn't turn the ball over a lot, and unfortunately a lot of our shots and put-backs just wouldn't fall," Salem coach Bill Roberts said.
"To me, they were hungry to prove they're a competitive team; they have progressed," he added. "They just played good basketball."
The Lady Jaguars (13-12) jumped to an early 16-9 lead after the first quarter behind the shooting of Sanderica Scott, Asha Allen and Whitley Smith. They accounted for a combined 13 points.
But the Lady 'Noles made a run of their own in the second by outscoring their opponent 13-8. Salem's Jaleen Thomas notched eight of those points.
A jumper by Precious Elkins with 3:41 left gave Salem its biggest lead of the night; however, Scott responded with a basket of her own before Tweety Hawkins tied it at 20.
Ladondra Johnson's basket with seconds remaining in the first half gave Cedar Shoals a 24-22 lead entering intermission.
The last lead Salem had came at the 3:27 mark in the third quarter after a layup by Ariel Wynter to make it 28-26.
After that, the Lady Jags scored eight straight, deflating Salem in the process.
In the fourth quarter, an 11-0 run by Cedar Shoals that increased its lead to 53-39 proved too much for Salem to overcome.
Two questionable calls within a span of the final two minutes by officials proved costly for the Lady Seminoles.
In both instances, multiple referees blew the whistle for different violations, each affecting a team. Both were originally Cedar traveling violations; however, the call was reversed to a Cedar timeout, negating the momentum Salem had previously generated.
"We had a great season, and there's nothing (for) them to hang their heads about," Roberts said. "But I felt like we turned the ball over too much in the first half in a hurry for some reason; I don't know why. We played a half-court game and they wanted to turn it into a full-court, and that played right into Cedar's hands.
"When you make those types of mistakes early, you're playing at their tempo and that's what we did."
Scott finished with a game-high 22 points. Smith added 14, while Hawkins had 13.
Johnson ended with 12 rebounds and nine blocked shots.
Wynter scored a team-high 16 points, collected 14 rebounds blocked five shots for Salem. Elkins and Thomas each posted 13 points.
Elkins registered 12 boards and five assists.
Clarke Central 58, Heritage 54
Trailing 45-30 entering the final quarter of action, the Lady Patriots managed to cut the deficit to two with just 6.1 seconds remaining.
However, a pair of free throws by sophomore Aja Sorrells stretched the Lady Gladiators' lead to 58-54, ending the game and Heritage's season.
Zaneta Gray and Sarah Herrington netted 11 points apiece for the Lady Patriots in the fourth period. They also had three 3-pointers.
In the fourth quarter alone, Heritage drilled six 3-pointers, committed four turnovers and was 2 of 2 from the free-throw line.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Herrington with 1:49 remaining made it 50-46 before Clarke Central held on for the victory.
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.