Salem knocks off rival Rockdale

CONYERS -- It had been at least four years since the Salem boys basketball team had beaten rival Rockdale. On Tuesday, Marques McKoy seemed tired of that dry spell.

McKoy narrowly missed a triple-double, collecting 27 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocked shots as the visiting Seminoles defeated Rockdale 75-60.

Rockdale (17-7, 7-1), which had escaped with a four-point win at Salem Jan. 20, had its 22-game regular season winning streak in Region 8-AAAA play snapped, though the Bulldogs had already clinched the No. 1 seed from the south subregion. Meanwhile, Salem finished the regular season at 17-7 (school-record for wins) overall and 6-2 in league play, clinching the No. 2 seed as both teams hit the court at Loganville High School in next Monday's tournament quarterfinals.

"Good to come in here and play a great game, to really get over that hump," said Salem coach Darren Wilkins.

"We knew we had a tough game (and) we knew (Rockdale) had a tough crowd," McKoy added.

Rockdale led 56-52 after LaRonta Parks knocked down a 3-pointer with 6:16 to play in the game, but it was all Salem from that point on. Starting with a bucket by Terry Salter off a feed from McKoy, the Seminoles went on an 11-0 run to take control at 63-56 by the 3:00 mark. The Bulldogs got a layup by David Jelks to get to within five, but Salem didn't allow a point for the next two minutes while stretching its lead out to 73-58 on a pair of free throws by Ahmad Mitchell.

C.J. Wilson, who led Rockdale with 18 points, limped off the court with a right ankle injury with 2:09 to play and Rockdale down 67-58. That hurt the Bulldogs' come back chances, but Wilson, Parks and Charles Moore, an excellent guard trio, were outplayed by the Salem guards, led by Mitchell (11 points, four assists), Dedrick Turner (15 points a game after hitting the 1,000-point total for his career Saturday) and Todd James (three of his five assists in the fourth quarter).

"The thing I like about our guards, we have a lot of variety. We've got balance," Wilkins said. "Overall, they've gotten better and smarter."

While the Salem guards were leading the way in the back court, McKoy controlled the paint. The junior held Jelks, Rockdale's 6-7 senior post player, in check, and along with the high blocked shot total, altered several other Rockdale attempts. Rockdale had just three made field goals in the final quarter.

"(McKoy has) really played great on the defensive end, he's really anchored that defense," Wilkins said. "(And) overall we've played great defense all year."