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Still on top
Rockdale boys keep control of region with win over Heritage

CONYERS - On Tuesday the Rockdale boys proved their one-point victory at Heritage on Jan. 9 was no fluke.

The Bulldogs retained their hold on the top spot in Region 8-AAAA South with a 59-49 win over their crosstown nemesis.

Meanwhile, the Heritage girls were victorious 56-40 to give coach Dave LaBarrie his 350th career win.

BOYS

Rockdale 59, Heritage 49

The Bulldogs (16-6 overall, 6-0 in 8-AAAA South) completed their season sweep over the Patriots by taking the 3-point shot away, limiting Heritage to 1 of 12 from downtown.

"I thought that was the best strategy tonight, and I think it worked out for us," Rockdale coach Alvin Williams said. "That Heritage team is a good team - they play hard and they play well together, and I'm just happy to see my young kids come together and give it all they had.

"It feels good to win a rivalry game, but I will say this about (Heritage) coach Ron Bradley - every time I'm in the same building with him I learn something. I learned some things from him tonight just watching him coach, and I appreciate him being an icon and a legend for high school sports."

Though the deep ball was not falling for Heritage (14-7, 4-2), the post play was outstanding. Senior 6-foot-8 center Justin Jones racked up a game-high 22 points as well as 18 rebounds and seven blocked shots.

"Well, I just worked my butt off," Rockdale's Bernard Thompson said, one of several defenders who had the luxury of guarding Jones. "Coach said attack the big man (Jones), so I attacked him. I didn't get everything like I thought I was, but it felt real good to win."

Thompson ended with a team-high 15 points, six rebounds and four steals.

Rockdale jumped to a 16-6 advantage after the first quarter before Heritage began chipping away at the lead in the second.

The Patriots went on a 13-4 run behind the shooting of senior Shakeem Mitchell, who scored six of his overall 11 points in the second period.

By halftime, Rockdale led 24-19, yet soon Heritage tied it at 33 late in the third after a layup by Chris Starling.

After a Heritage turnover, Rockdale took the lead for good with 2:24 left in the third when sophomore Kevin Ware, nicknamed "Flash," soared above Mitchell for a dunk, igniting the home crowd.

"I think it just changed the whole momentum because at first we let them make that little run," Ware said. "Then when I got that everything just changed. We just played hard and won together."

Despite shooting 9 of 18 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, Rockdale held on for the 10-point victory.

Overall the Bulldogs were 18 of 31 (58 percent) from the charity stripe. The Patriots were just 6 of 15 (40 percent).

"I think it was an important game because people don't like Rockdale, and we've got to bring our name up because Heritage has had its name up there for years," Rockdale point guard Cordarryle Bethley said. "This game right here was important and it was fun, (but) it's over with.

"We can celebrate now but we gotta continue to roll, and we still got a lot of work to do."

Bethley finished with 11 points, six boards and nine assists. Jonathan Gissentanner ended with 13 points and five rebounds.

GIRLS

Heritage 56, Rockdale 40

The Lady Patriots (12-9) returned the favor by avenging an earlier loss at home to the Lady Bulldogs with a decisive 16-point victory.

Tuesday's game was Heritage coach Dave LaBarrie's 350th career win in 17 years of coaching, an average of close to 21 victories per season.

"It's a milestone for sure. I'm glad I did it with this group of girls because they're kind of special," LaBarrie said. "We don't have any superstars, but they just fight and fight and fight, so yeah it's special. This sends a message - it's called bragging rights for the neighborhood."

Heritage orchestrated something it failed to do in the 52-50 loss to Rockdale on Jan. 9 - defense. Thanks to a number of Rockdale turnovers and missed shots, the Lady Pats also finished down the stretch to preserve the win.

"(That) probably was one of the worst losses I've ever had," LaBarrie said regarding the first matchup. "For a crosstown rival to come into your house and beat you, that's not good for the school. We decided for the school we had to win tonight, so we were winning for the school really, for school pride."

Heritage's Jasmine Middlebrooks scored a game-high 15 points.

With the win, the Lady Patriots remain tied for third with Rockdale in subregion play.

Meanwhile, the Lady Bulldogs dropped to 2-4 in subregion action.

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