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Seminoles cruise in tournament opener

LOGANVILLE -- Prior to last season's run to the region tournament championship game, the Salem boys basketball team hadn't ever qualified for the state playoffs. Now, the Seminoles are starting to make a habit of it.

Dedrick Turner scored 22 points and Salem used a dominant stretch in the third quarter to pull away from Madison County, 72-54 in the Region 8-AAAA Tournament quarterfinals at Loganville High School. The No. 2 seed Seminoles are guaranteed a spot in the field of 32, but are two wins away from the first region championship in school history, and will play Loganville in Thursday's semifinals.

"Last year it was getting into state, this year, (qualifying again) really validates our program. The last three years we really made strides," Salem coach Darren Wilkins said, whose team added to its school-record win total and improved to 18-7.

Madison County got to within 42-31 on a 3-pointer by T.J. Skelton with 3:38 left in the third, but Salem took control after that. Starting with a 3-pointer by Turner off a feed from Damion Gordon, the Seminoles had a 12-2 spurt that stretched the lead to 54-33 with just under a minute to play in the quarter. Turner scored eight of his points during the quarter and Caneshe Green added five of his 11.

"They really had to step up and get some points," Wilkins said of Turner and Green. "The way (Madison) wanted to play would slow us down. We're a lot better (in a fast-paced game). When that happens, it relieves a little pressure."

After a sluggish first quarter, the game turned in Salem's favor early in the second when Turner got hot. The junior guard hit consecutive 3-pointers from well behind the three-point arc on passes from Green, then Turner and Marques McKoy each added a tip-in to cap a 7-0 run. That put the Seminoles up 21-15, but they weren't done. Despite McKoy, who was coming off a near-triple-double in a victory over Rockdale in the regular season finale, picking up his third foul with 4:18 left in the half, Salem didn't slow down, getting four more points from Turner and a 3-pointer from Green to score 18 of the last 25 points of the opening half and go into the locker room up 32-22.

"That was good tonight, don't want to do that too many times," Wilkins said of playing stretches without McKoy.

The Seminoles extended their 10-point halftime cushion thanks again to Green and Turner. The pair combined for 11 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, and Turner put the Seminoles up by double digits for good at 40-28 on another long 3-pointer.

For Madison County, which had its season end at 9-18, Trae Burton led the way with 16 points and Trey Carruth added 15.