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Seminoles drop region opener

FLOWERY BRANCH -- Tavia Sykes and Marissa Ivey were too much for the Salem girls basketball team. Sykes had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Ivey added 16 points, including four three-pointers, as Flowery Branch won the Region 8-AAAAA opener for both schools 63-52.

It was also the season opener for Flowery Branch, which led by as many as 14 points. Salem fell to 1-2 overall.

Salem's Shay Tarver scored two of her 10 points with 7:10 left in the game before Jacy Ramey (10 points and 11 rebounds) hit a free throw and Ivey knocked down the last of her three-pointers to make it a 50-39 game. That forced a Salem time out, but the Seminoles could only get as close as 50-41 on a bucket by Palm Beach Atlantic University signee Nikkira Brown (team-high 19 points) with 6:25 to play.

In the third, Ivey hit two of her three-pointers, the last of which came off a nice pass from Sykes, and Sykes had a baseline runner to push the Falcons lead out to 42-33 late in the third. Flowery Branch hit 12 of 18 free throws in the fourth to pull away.

Salem led by two with just over five minutes left in the second quarter before the Falcons went on a long run to build a halftime lead. During a 10-0 spurt, freshman Heather Moore drained a pair of three-pointers, the last of which came off a pass from Ivey and put Flowery Branch up 29-21 with 2:30 to play.

Salem stayed close, thanks to its defense, which forced nine turnovers in the opening 16 minutes. After Brown got the last of her three first-half assists on a Brianna Bush three-pointer, Jennifer Tindi had an empathic block on the other end. That led to a Salem fast break and Tarver made a tough lay up to get the visitors to within 31-26 at the break.

The Falcons also erased a deficit in the first quarter. Salem led 10-7 on a bucket by Tindi at the 3:09 mark, but Ivey knocked down two tough jumpers, one a baseline runner and the other a nice head fake and bank shot, part of a 8-0 run to close the opening quarter and put the Falcons up 15-10.

Taylor King had a steal and layup and later, Tindi's basket off a feed from Brown helped Salem maintain a slim 21-19 cushion. But that would turn out to be Salem's last lead of the night. Breanna Locke hit two free throws to pull the teams even for the third and last time of the half before Moore's first bucket from behind the arc got Flowery Branch started on its game-changing run.

The Salem boys played Flowery Branch in the nightcap, which ended too late for this edition.