CONYERS - In front of a packed house, the Rockdale basketball squads chalked up a pair of narrow victories on the home court of county rival Heritage on Friday night.
In the girls game, the Lady Bulldogs (4-13 overall, 1-1 in 8-AAAA South) pulled off a stunning upset with a 52-50 victory over the Lady Patriots (8-6, 1-1).
The Rockdale boys (11-5, 2-0) made the key plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter to secure a 62-61 win over Heritage (8-6, 1-1).
Rockdale 52, Heritage 50
Sparked by a 17-1 run, the Lady Bulldogs seized control of the game in the first half, building a 25-8 lead.
Freshman Brianna Lawrence (11 points) and junior Miasia Burks (nine points) combined for 20 first-half points as Rockdale built a 30-16 halftime advantage.
In the second half, Heritage methodically began chipping away at the Rockdale lead.
Senior Sarah Herrington scored seven points in the third period, helping the Lady Patriots shave their deficit to 39-32 going into the fourth quarter.
In the game's final minute, Rockdale's Burks, who had a team-high 17 points, scored on a drive down the lane with 48 seconds remaining to give her team a 50-46 lead.
But Heritage's Jana Dixon countered with a bucket in the paint with 34 seconds left to slice the deficit to 50-48.
And then, Heritage's Giovanni Sims scored off a rebound and was fouled with 17.2 seconds left, pulling the Lady Patriots even at 50-all for the first time since early in the first quarter.
However, Sims missed the bonus free throw, which set up the Rockdale's final chance.
With the game tied, Rockdale's Lawrence was fouled on a drive down the lane. The freshman sandwiched two free throws around a timeout, putting Rockdale in front 52-50 with 4.3 seconds to play.
Heritage had one last chance, but Jasmine Middlebrooks' half-court shot was off the mark.
"Our composure was the key tonight," Rockdale coach Leonard Buckner said. "We hung in there when they got close and didn't fall apart. We've had two or three games this year where we've had big leads and let them slip away in the second half. Tonight, we hung in there and finished it off.
"We knew they would make a run at us. I told the girls they had to keep their composure. This was a huge win for us. Maybe it will give us some momentum for the rest of subregion play."
Herrington added 17 points for Heritage, while Sims chipped in 15 points and nine boards off the bench. Dixon had a team-high 17 rebounds.
Lawrence finished with 13 points for the Lady Bulldogs.
Rockdale 62, Heritage 61
In another tight game, the Bulldogs rallied from a three-point deficit in the fourth quarter to claim their first victory over the Patriots in three seasons.
Byron Lawrence scored seven key points off the bench in the fourth quarter to help the Bulldogs rally. His layup and 10-footer in the lane put the Bulldogs in front for good 57-54 with 4:13 to play.
Senior Julius Giles followed with a dunk off a steal, increasing Rockdale's advantage to 59-54.
Heritage senior center Justin Jones countered with a three-point play off a rebound, pulling the Patriots to within two at 59-57 with 2:04 left in the game.
But Lawrence answered with another key bucket for Rockdale on a 9-footer from the lane for a 61-57 advantage with 1:32 left.
Heritage closed the gap to 61-59 on Shakeem Mitchell's layup.
However, Jonathan Gissentanner hit the front end of a one-and-one with 15.2 seconds to give Rockdale a three-point advantage.
The Patriots had a chance to attempt a game-tying shot. But some miscommunication led to easy dunk for Jones, and the Patriots were forced to watch the final seconds tick off the clock because they were out of timeouts.
Giles had 16 points and three steals to lead the Bulldogs, while Gissentanner chipped in 10 points and six boards. Lawrence finished with nine points, all in the second half. Six of Rockdale's players scored at least seven points.
Jones and Mitchell each finished with 16 points for the Patriots. Jones also chipped in 14 rebounds and three blocked shots. Miles Harris added 12 points.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at email@example.com.