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Bulldogs hold off rival Salem

CONYERS -- Brianna Patton drained a go-ahead 3-pointer and the Rockdale defense held Salem without a point in the final 2:37 in a 46-44 victory in Conyers on Tuesday.

With the win, Rockdale finished 7-1 in Region 8-AAAA South play and wrapped up the No. 1 seed when the league tournament begins this weekend. Salem finished 6-2 and is the sub-region's No. 2 seed.

With Rockdale trailing 44-42, Brianna Lawrence shot an air ball that Patton saved from going out of bounds. Lawrence ended up with the ball and found Patton, who calmly drained a 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs ahead for good at 45-44 with 1:17 left in the game.

The teams traded turnovers three seconds apart, and the Seminoles had a chance to take the lead, but Ayanna Mitchell came up short on a layup. Kree Clark grabbed the rebound and hit one of two free throws to make it 46-44. With two seconds to play, Shay Tarver was fouled by Lawrence and went to the free throw line with a chance to tie the game, but missed on the front end of a one-and-one.

Salem built as first-half lead as large as seven points, getting a steal and layup from Mercedes Booker to take a 25-18 lead at the 2:35 mark. The Seminoles hit 4 of 6 free throws down the stretch, but Rockdale pulled to within four points by halftime. Shebreta Alexander grabbed an offensive rebound and fed Kayla Collins for a 3-pointer, then Breanna Richardson out-worked Salem on the offensive glass for a putback that made it a 29-25 game at the break.

In the opening quarter, Rockdale had a three-minute scoring drought and that allowed the visiting Seminoles to go up 8-2 on a bucket by Nikkira Brown. Rockdale settled in and Lawrence, a Tennessee State signee who led the Bulldogs with 13 points, hit a pair of field goals, the last of which off a feed from Patton made it 12-9. Salem knocked down all eight of its free throw attempts in the opening quarter and led by five after one.

Rockdale took its first lead of the game with 4:38 to play in the third when Richardson found Patton with a beautiful cross-court pass, which led to a 3-pointer and a 32-29 cushion. And though Rockdale went up by as many as four in the quarter, the teams went back and forth for the remainder of the game.

Tarver led the Seminoles with 13 points and Mitchell added 11.

The boy's nightcap ended too late for this edition.