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Salem girls head to semis

LOGANVILLE -- Neither Salem nor Madison County could find much offense in their quarterfinal matchup Tuesday. But the Seminoles found enough in freshman Ayanna Mitchell.

In her first region tournament game, Mitchell had 15 points and 14 rebounds and the Seminoles clinched a spot in the state playoffs with a 43-30 victory.

Salem (18-7) will play No. 1 seed Flowery Branch in the semifinals at 4 p.m. on Thursday

"You start 0-0; it's a whole new game," said first-year Salem coach Rochone Dilligard, whose team snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 18-7. "(Flowery Branch is) going to be a very well-coached squad. We got to be ready for the challenge."

Madison County (16-10) trailed just 35-30 with two minutes left after Nakeia Brown hit one of two free throws, but the No. 3 seed Red Raiders didn't score again. Salem, the No. 2 seed, went up seven when Nikkira Brown found Danielle Thomas for a layup and Brown and Shay Tarver combined to hit 6 of 6 free throws down the stretch to put the game away.

"We still have a lot of breakdowns. You still have to execute what you're doing," Dilligard said.

The Red Raiders went six minutes without a field goal and scored just four points in the third, helping Salem build a bit of a cushion. Mitchell had a pair of free throws and a layup that put Salem up 26-18 before Madison finally got a bucket on a runner by Molly Glaze with 4:15 left in the third.

Mitchell hit a runner early in the fourth, and two free throws by Tarver helped Salem build its largest lead thus far at 33-24. Molly Glaze scored five of her team-high 12 points to help get the Red Raiders to within 35-30.

Madison led early, 7-6 on a bucket by Elise Coberly, but Salem scored the final seven points of the opening quarter, one on a layup by Mitchell and the final points came when Mitchell found Mercedes Booker on a nice feed for a basket to make it 13-7 after one.

"She's a player who is going to take what you give her," Dilligard said of Mitchell. "That's the first time in a while she's been in a one-on-one matchup."

Coberly's field goal pulled the Red Raiders within one at 17-16 with 2:10 left in the first half, but the Seminoles finished another quarter strong, getting four more points from Mitchell, the last of which came on a pretty feed from the driving Tarver to push the lead to 22-16 with a minute to play in the second.

Heritage had its season end at 12-15 with a 44-43 loss to Flowery Branch in the quarterfinals. The Patriots led 43-42 after Aujana Dawkins scored the last of her game-high 16 points with 23 seconds left in the game. At the other end, Cara Chilton calmly drained a jumper in the lane to put the Falcons up 44-43, and Heritage couldn't get a shot off on its last possession.

Flowery Branch (19-7), which won its eighth consecutive game, took a 10-0 lead two minutes into the game, but Heritage stayed close. Dawkins and Che Hardaway combined for 14 first-half points, and Hardaway's jumper at the 5:38 mark of the second capped a 17-5 run and gave the Patriots their first lead at 17-15.

The Falcons again built a lead, going up 26-19 early in the third on a bucket by Jacy Ramey. Heritage didn't quit, going on a 10-0 spurt to pull ahead 29-26 on a field goal by Shanique Heard with just over a minute to go in the third.

Marissa Ivey scored 14 points and Chilton added 11 for the Falcons.

The top-seed Rockdale girls played No. 4 seed Clarke Central in the last quarterfinal of the day, which ended too late for this edition.