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Crosstown rivals ready for tipoff
Salem visits Loganville in subregion action

CONYERS - All good rivalries typically make for a more thrilling matchup.

Proof comes tonight when Rockdale travels just five miles to Heritage for some subregion hoops.

Furthermore, both boys teams are each 1-0 in subregion play.

BOYS

Ranked No. 9 in Class AAAA in the Georgia Sports Writers Association Poll, the Bulldogs (10-5 overall) haven't beaten the Patriots since Jan. 12, 2007.

Last year Heritage (9-5) won both meetings by a combined 33 points.

"I'm looking forward to the energy and how my younger kids bond in a big rivalry game," Rockdale first-year coach Alvin Williams said. "I realize they beat us twice last year, so hopefully this is our time."

Both Rockdale and Heritage are coming off subregion wins over Loganville and Monroe Area, respectively.

The Bulldogs are averaging 72.3 points per game while allowing 64.4. Comparatively, the Patriots are allowing just over 50 points per game.

According to Williams, the Bulldogs must play together, communicate and utilize their senior leadership in order to come out on top.

"In my opinion, they have the best coach in the state of Georgia," Williams said of Heritage coach Ron Bradley. "Their zone is stifling - they're long, they're athletic and they're competitors. There's no doubt in my mind that they will play their very best against us."

Tipoff is at 8:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, Salem (5-10) visits Loganville at 8:30 p.m. tonight in its first subregion game of the year.

"My big concern is coming back to play after a long layoff," Salem coach Darren Wilkins said. "Hopefully, the rust will be off before (tonight)."

Salem is still struggling to find its identity; however, there have been glimpses of what could be, especially after strong play in the Henry County Classic.

This certainly helps after the Seminoles at one point lost five straight games.

"We played well in the tournament," Wilkins said. "If we can keep that level of play, that will be a good thing. Our energy level was high - we played at a good, fast pace and got contributions from everyone.

"As always, I feel we need to be consistent in our play," he added. "The good teams at every level play with a consistency from quarter to quarter and game to game. That is one thing I am looking for."

GIRLS

The Lady Bulldogs (2-13) are looking for their first victory over the Lady Patriots (9-5) since 2006.

And despite Rockdale's slow start, records are easily cast aside in crosstown showdowns.

"They have some very good players from last year," Heritage coach Dave LaBarrie said. "(Leonard Buckner) is a good coach and a competitor; it's going to be a game."

Heritage has allowed 34 or fewer points in four straight games. Still, Rockdale has scored at least 34 points in 13 games this season.

In addition, the Lady Bulldogs scored a season-high 73 points in a win over Apalachee on Dec. 2 - 14 points more than the Lady Patriots' highest mark.

"We must step up on our defense," LaBarrie said. "They like to press and trap, so we have to be able to handle that.

"We're trying to develop players and still working on our defense, but it takes time," he added. "We spent a whole practice on it (Thursday) and it's something we must continue to do."

Tipoff is at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, the No. 3 Lady Seminoles open subregion play at Loganville (9-6) at 7 p.m. tonight.

And Salem (12-2) has not disappointed. In fact, its only two losses have been by a combined four points.

"We did well the first half of the season," Salem coach Bill Roberts said. "We played the last four or five games without our starting shooting guard (Kentrell White) and managed to win all but one of those games. I feel like we will come out to play and give it our best in every game."

Salem is undefeated in region, averaging a region-best 59 points per game.

"I feel pretty good going into the second half of the season and into subregion play," Roberts said. "My main concern is that we haven't played a game since the 23rd of December. Hopefully, that long lay off won't hurt us too bad."

Earlier this season, Salem won 10 straight within a span of nearly four weeks before bowing to Jackson 53-50.

"We are a team that continues to grow as the season goes along," Roberts said. "We are getting a better feel for each other and the kids are growing into and accepting their roles on the team."

Riddled with talent, Precious Elkins has paced the Lady Seminoles all season long.

"The play of Precious has been tremendous over the first half of the season," Roberts said. "We would like to see that continue. She's a leader and scorer. She's been asked to do some things that she hasn't done in the past, and she has rose up to the challenge and continues to impress."

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