CONYERS - With only eight games on this year's Region 8-AAAA South basketball slate, every game takes on greater importance in the subregion standings.
With that in mind, the Heritage squads hit the road tonight for two key clashes against Loganville. In the other game, Salem entertains Monroe Area. Rockdale takes a break from 8-AAAA South play tonight and goes to Shiloh for a non-region game.
A quick glance at the standings confirms the importance of both the boys and girls games at Loganville.
The Heritage boys (10-6 overall) are 1-1 in 8-AAAA South play after dropping a 62-61 decision to county rival Rockdale last Friday.
The Loganville boys are 11-6 overall and 2-1 in 8-AAAA South after chalking up a 65-50 win at Monroe Area on Tuesday.
Tonight's winner will remain just a game behind unbeaten Rockdale, which is 3-0. The loser will be two games behind.
Tonight's game marks the halfway point of subregion play for the Red Devils.
"It's a big one and it's on the road, too," Heritage boys coach Ron Bradley said. "Momentum is starting to be big at this time of the year. You want to get that momentum going, you want to try to keep playing good basketball and not fall apart here at the end (of the season).
"With two less subregion games this year, it makes them all important. We're sitting at 1-1 right now, so we've got to stay in the hunt."
The Heritage girls (9-6 overall, 1-1 in 8-AAAA South) are in much the same boat as the Heritage boys.
The Lady Patriots need a win tonight against Loganville (11-6 overall, 1-1 in 8-AAAA South) to keep in reach of Salem, which is 2-0 and hosts winless Monroe Area tonight.
Heritage was upended 52-50 by Rockdale last Friday.
"Loganville is as good as Salem, so we have to have our 'A' game in order to compete," Heritage girls coach Dave LaBarrie said. "Our defense must be on point and we will have to survive their press. Having lost to Rockdale at home, we need a win to maintain third place in the subregion. We must make our free throws and cut down our turnovers."
At Salem, the key contest is the boys matchup, where both squads will be trying to avoid 0-3 starts in subregion play.
The Seminoles (5-12 overall, 0-2 in 8-AAAA South) are coming off a strong effort in a 67-64 loss to Rockdale on Tuesday. The Purple Hurricanes are 6-10 overall and 0-2 in 8-AAAA South.
"Yes, it is a big game. We don't want to drop to 0-3 in the subregion," Salem boys coach Darren Wilkins said. "With two games at home this weekend, a couple of wins would be nice. We also have Loganville and Heritage coming to our gym later in the season, so this could be a chance to build some momentum.
"We have been playing really hard since the Christmas tournament, but Tuesday was the first time since before Christmas that our roster was at full strength. We had been missing several players due to various reasons, so having everyone back has made practice more competitive, which helped us Tuesday. Basically, we need to take what we did against Rockdale and improve on a couple of areas, keep the intensity and finish games smarter."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: THE STANDINGS
Region 8-AAAA South Standings
· Monroe Area at Salem
· Heritage at Loganville