CONYERS - The Salem basketball teams are headed in opposite directions in Region 8-AAAA South.
The Salem girls (16-2 overall, 3-0 in 8-AAAA South) maintained their hold on first place in the subregion with an easy 68-32 victory over Monroe Area on Friday night.
However, the Salem boys (5-13, 0-3) slid into last place after dropping a 69-64 loss to the Purple Hurricanes (7-10, 1-2).
Salem 68, Monroe Area 32
The Lady Seminoles left little doubt about the eventual outcome, racing out to a 13-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game thanks to seven from Shardai Harrison.
Monroe Area had no answer for Salem senior Precious Elkins, who finished the game with 21 points and nine rebounds. The Lady Purple Hurricanes made a concentrated effort to take away Elkins' inside opportunities, so the forward utilized her outside shooting, hitting a pair of 3-pointers.
"We just came out with a lot of defensive intensity," Salem girls coach Bill Roberts said. "I think their game plan was to shut down Precious down in the paint, so we just moved her outside. She's gotten really good at playing inside out. Once we got our inside out going, it was hard for them to stay with us."
Harrison added 10 points for the Lady Seminoles, while Jaleen Thomas finished with nine. Ariel Wynter added eight points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots.
Roberts was even more pleased with his team's performance considering the fact that the Lady Seminoles host Region 8-AAAA rival Clarke Central this afternoon.
"We had the opportunity to rest some people (tonight), so we were able to play more people," Roberts said. "It gave us the ability to make sure players have some legs for tomorrow's game."
Monroe Area 69,
The Seminoles' shooting the first two and a half quarters was as cold as the weather outside.
Salem shot only 33.3 percent in the first half from the field, hitting just 7 of 21 shot attempts. In fact, the Seminoles made only 2 of 10 shots in the second quarter.
Monroe Area took advantage of Salem's cold shooting to build a 32-18 halftime advantage. The Purple Hurricanes shot 48.3 percent, hitting 14 of 29 shots.
"We didn't play very hard. I don't know if it was a hangover from Tuesday (a loss to Rockdale) or what, but it's still inexcusable because they played Tuesday as well," Salem boys coach Darren Wilkins said. "We just didn't play hard for about two and a half quarters and we spotted them a 17-point lead."
Finally, Salem shook out of its shooting doldrums late in the third quarter.
Jonathon Slade scored off a rebound, Terrence Bennett nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing and Jarrett Brown added a steal and a layup right before the buzzer, slicing Monroe Area's lead to 47-36 entering the final period.
The Purple Hurricanes appeared to be cruising to victory in the final two minutes when the Seminoles made things interesting.
Armond Kendrick drained back-to-back treys as Salem cut its deficit to 61-56 with 1:18 remaining in the game.
But Monroe Area made enough free throws down the stretch to wrap up the victory.
"We started playing hard and we chopped 10 off their lead," Wilkins said. "But like I told the boys, that's bad math. When you do that way, you're not going to come back most of the time. We're just not being consistent in our energy. For some folks, we get up and play sky high, scrap and claw. Sometimes, we just show up."
Tevin Bradley and Shaquille Johnson paced Salem with 12 points apiece, while Brown and Kendrick finished with nine.
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.