CONYERS - Tonight a pair of significant games particularly standout on the hardwood, none bigger than the crosstown matchup featuring the Heritage boys at Rockdale.
In their first meeting, the Bulldogs defeated the Patriots 62-61 before a packed gymnasium. Outcomes aside, a similar type of atmosphere will nevertheless add to this heated rivalry this evening.
Rounding out tonight's thrilling showdowns is the Loganville girls at Salem matchup.
"We're excited about tonight. We've played really good basketball lately, and we're just excited about going to Rockdale," Heritage coach Ron Bradley said. "It's going to be great, and they have outstanding players who are well-coached."
The Bulldogs (15-6 overall, 5-0 in 8-AAAA South), first in subregion play, have won six of their last seven games.
Meanwhile, after losing three of five games to open the season, the Patriots (14-6, 4-1) are peaking at the precise time, second in subregion action. In fact, they have won 12 of their last 14 games.
Yet on Jan. 9, a confident, youthful Rockdale squad with explosive talent entered the Heritage court and handed Bradley - a coach with more than 1,300 prep victories - a rare loss.
"I loved to have that one go down to the wire. I felt like both teams played a great game, (one) that turned out to be a one-play ballgame," Bradley said. "They did a great job of coaching, and it was one of the better coached games we've been a part of.
"Both teams played extremely well and there was a great show of support."
Julius Giles led the Bulldogs with 13 points and a trio of steals. Sophomore Kevin Ware was two points and three assists shy of a triple-double. He finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Heritage seniors Justin Jones and Shakeem Mitchell each poured in 16 points. Jones also collected 14 rebounds and three blocked shots.
"They have outstanding players who are well-coached, and it will be exciting to see how we respond (to the Jan. 9 loss)," Bradley said. "They're first in subregion, so we'd love to win and tie this thing up."
Meanwhile, the Lady Seminoles (19-2) are ranked No. 4 in the state according to the Georgia Girls Basketball Poll. They are riding an eight-game winning streak, and haven't lost since Dec. 22.
Their only two losses have been by a measly four points, and they have been perfect at home this season.
As a result, Salem is undefeated at 10-0 in Region 8-AAAA play (4-0 subregion) followed by Loganville.
"What we've been able to do this year is remain versatile," Salem coach Bill Roberts said. "We've been able to do that against good teams. Changing the pace of the game has given us the opportunity to win in the end."
On Jan. 9, the Lady 'Noles edged the Lady Devils on the road 45-43, giving them their first subregion victory of the year.
"(Tonight's) game is going to be a good one. They're just as talented as us, and I really think that if we played 10 games against each other we'd be 5-5," Roberts said.
Salem's Precious Elkins, who leads the team in scoring, added a team-high 23 points in the win. Meanwhile, Loganville's Brittnee Hazel has paced her team all season long.
"We're evenly matched, and against them it became a defensive battle - a chess match back and forth," Roberts said. "I think it's going to be a matter of who comes out and makes the least mistakes."
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.