CONYERS - The Rockdale and Heritage boys basketball teams have emerged as the front-runners halfway through the Region 8-AAAA South slate.
Tonight, both squads will try to maintain their status before heading into Tuesday's clash between the two schools at Rockdale.
The Bulldogs (14-6, 4-0 in 8-AAAA South) face a tough road test at Loganville (11-8, 2-2), while the Patriots (13-6, 3-1) entertain Monroe Area (8-11, 1-3). The girls games tip off tonight's action at 7 p.m. followed by the boys at 8:30.
Salem, meanwhile, has the night off before playing at Mount Zion-Jonesboro on Saturday.
In the first meeting, the Rockdale boys used a big second half to subdue Loganville 81-56 in Conyers.
This time, the Bulldogs will face Loganville on the Red Devils' home floor, which can be tough for visiting teams.
"It will be interesting to see how our team handles a game in a hostile environment, but I do feel like we've been in several of those this season," Rockdale coach Alvin Williams said. "If we can handle it the same way we did at Clarke Central, Heritage and Salem, we should have a good chance of being successful."
With only a one-game lead over Heritage and a two-game lead on Loganville, the Bulldogs cannot afford a slip-up.
"It feels good (to be 4-0), but we are still a very long way from accomplishing our goal," Williams said. "In a team meeting Wednesday, the players reassured that our first goal is to win the subregion. Going 4-4 will not accomplish that. We are about to see all of these teams for the second time, and we know that they will be aiming to knock us off. We have to pick up our level of play beginning with Loganville, and then we know that we are in for a battle with Heritage and Salem next week. These next three games are definitely key for us."
The Bulldogs rallied in the second half Tuesday to keep their perfect subregion mark intact with a 71-67 win over visiting Monroe Area. Julius Giles fired in a game-high 27 points.
Williams is looking for a better defensive effort from this squad tonight.
"Looking at our past few games, we have not executed well on the defensive end," he said. "Loganville has some very talented shooters and they move the ball well. It is important that we close out well and get a hand up in the shooter's face. Offensively, we want to play an up-tempo style game and get baskets in transition."
For the Heritage boys, it's all about momentum right now.
The Patriots have won nine of their last 11 games and are coming off a strong shooting performance in Tuesday's 81-52 win over county rival Salem. Shakeem Mitchell led four Heritage players in double figures with 24 points.
In the first meeting, the Patriots pulled out a 53-51 win on the Purple Hurricanes' home floor in Monroe.
"It will be an interesting game. We barely got out of their place with the last shot of the game (the first time we played)," Heritage coach Ron Bradley said. "We've got some pretty exciting games coming up in our next three against Monroe, Rockdale and Loganville."
In the girls action, Rockdale (4-16, 2-2) faces a tough assignment against second-place Loganville (13-6, 3-1), while Heritage (10-8, 1-3) goes for the season sweep against Monroe Area (1-18, 0-4).
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: Region standings
Monroe Area 1-3
Monroe Area 0-4
This Week's Schedule
Monroe Area at Heritage, 7 p.m.
Rockdale at Loganville, 7 p.m.