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Rivals Rockdale, Salem meet on the court

CONYERS - Entering the second week of subregion play, the Rockdale boys and Salem girls are first among the standings.

But this could change tonight, when Rockdale visits Salem in the latest matchup between the county rivals.

Rockale boys vs. Salem

For Rockdale (11-5 overall, 2-0 subregion), it has already survived its first crosstown exam of the season - on the road, nevertheless.

The Bulldogs edged Heritage 62-61 on Friday, and nobody could be more pleased than Rockdale first-year coach Alvin Williams.

"The Heritage game was a good win for our program, but we try not to live off of the last game," Williams said. "Instead we look to our next opponent. Salem will be another tough game for us. We realize that they are much better than their record indicates, and we have to mentally prepare ourselves for the contest.

"We need to continuously improve, especially defensively, in order to try to stay on track."

The Bulldogs are ranked No. 9 in Class AAAA in the Georgia Sports Writers Association poll.

"They're real big and athletic," Salem coach Darren Wilkins said. "We can't create silly plays off turnovers. We've got to take good shots, that's the main thing."

The Seminoles (5-12) are still trying to establish their identity, and time is running out.

"It will be a fun atmosphere and very competitive," Wilkins said of the matchup. "Everyone will be here, and it should be a hard, tough game. It's all about whoever shows up."

In order for Salem to pull off the upset, it starts with shutting down Rockdale's Jonathan Gissentanner and sophomore Kevin Ware.

Conversely, Salem's Jonathon Slade and Terrence Bennett will be key players for the Seminoles to pull an upset.

"We are looking forward to taking another step toward the goal set by our seniors in the beginning of the season, which is to win the region championship," Williams said. "In order to accomplish this we must take things one game at a time.

"Our philosophy is that if we play defense and rebound like we're capable of we have a good chance of being successful against any opponent," he added.

Rockdale girls vs. Salem

Need proof that records don't matter when it comes to crosstown showdowns? Look no further than Friday, when Rockdale (3-13) upset Heritage (8-6) on the road 52-50.

"Rockdale is always quick and athletic," Salem coach Bill Roberts said. "We have to be ready to match that speed and athleticism. Their win over Heritage was good for them, and any win helps with the mental aspect of the game. I think any time these three schools meet, you can expect a good game."

That win kept the Lady Bulldogs' playoff hopes alive. Rockdale has won two of its last five games, none bigger than the victory over Heritage, evening its subregion record at 1-1.

However, unlike the Lady Patriots, the Lady Seminoles are ranked among the top in the state, proving to be an even bigger hurdle. Furthermore, Rockdale has not defeated Salem since the 2004-05 campaign.

"When you play a crosstown rival, the atmosphere and energy in the gym is always great," Roberts said. "It's always more fun for the kids to play to a large crowd."

Salem is ranked No. 3 in Class AAAA in the Georgia Sports Writers Association Poll. The Lady Seminoles are coming off two wins by a total of just four points.

"We played two very good ball teams on their home courts and came away with a win; that's a very good thing," Roberts said of his two most recent victories.

Without question, the Lady Seminoles are off to a hot start. Not only is it their most productive start since the 2004-05 season, but the play of senior Precious Elkins has been superlative.

Elkins is averaging just more than 20 points per game this year. Ariel Wynter is adding 11.6 points per game for Salem.

Yet Rockdale has several scoring threats of its own, including Miasia Burks and Brittnee Hazel. Combine that with post presence Lauren Stewart, and the Lady Bulldogs could very well pull off an upset.

"The keys for us is to play our game and stick to the game plan," Roberts said.

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

SideBar: 8-AAAA South

Standings

Boys

Rockdale 2-0

Heritage 1-1

Loganville 1-1

Salem 0-1

Monroe Area 0-1

Girls

Salem 1-0

Heritage 1-1

Rockdale 1-1

Loganville 1-1

Monroe Area 0-1

This Week's Games

Today

· Rockdale at Salem

· Loganville at Monroe Area

Friday

· Monroe Area at Salem

· Heritage at Loganville