CONYERS -- A new era has begun for the Salem girl's basketball program.
Freshman Ayanna Mitchell had 30 points and 11 rebounds and the Seminoles rolled in their season opener, 58-23 over Henry County.
By the time Salem had built a 48-19 cushion on a field goal by Nikkira Brown, Mitchell, a first-year player from Memorial Middle School just a few blocks down the street, had gotten the rest of the night off. Her fellow freshman, guard Shay Tarver had also impressed, scoring 10 points to go along with three assists.
Mitchell was a one-woman show in the first quarter as the 6-2 center scored all 18 of Salem's points. A pair of free throws, which followed one of her three steals in the quarter, capped a quick 6-0 run and put the Seminoles up 12-7.
Mitchell, who had 28 points and eight rebounds during the first 16 minutes, continued to stand out in the second, but this time her fellow freshman got involved as well. Shay Tarver scored the first non-Mitchell basket of the game early in the quarter, and after her putback, Mitchell assisted on Tarver's field goal to put the hosts up 24-15 with 5:28 to play. Henry County committed five of its 12 first half turnovers during a stretch in the second that saw Salem turn that nine-point lead into its largest lead of the half at 36-17 on Tarver's two free throws just before halftime.
"It felt fine," Mitchell said of her first varsity game. "I was really pleased with my teammates because we all worked together."
"She just lets the game come to her, she works really hard," said first-year Salem coach Rochone Dilligard. "She's very composed."
The youth movement extended to the sophomore class as Jennifer Tindi added six points and 10 rebounds. For the visiting Warhwaks, who scored just nine second half points, Natalie Harice led the way with 12 points.
The Salem boys, fresh off the first state tournament appearance in the program's history, hosted Henry County in the nightcap. The game ended too late for this edition.
Elsewhere around the county.....
Salem boys 89, Henry County 78
Dedrick Turner looks more than prepared for his junior season. The sweet-shooting guard was nearly unstoppable from behind the arc, hitting eight three-pointers, part of a 31-point effort in the Seminoles' season-opening win.
Henry County (0-1) took a 74-70 lead on a free throw by Steven Johnson, but it was all Seminoles after that. After a field goal from Jamaal Garror, Turner drained a pair of three-pointers, and by the time Todd James fed Garror for another bucket it was 82-78 with a minute to play. Caneshe Green helped ice the win making six consecutive free throws down the stretch.
Rockdale girls 62, Spalding 24
The Bulldogs moved to 2-0 with a lopsided loss in Griffin. Breanna Richardson led a group of four in double figures with 15 points, while Brianna Lawrence added 12 points and seven steals, and Kayla Collins and Brianna Patton added 11 points each.