Winder The region player of the year was just too much for the Salem boy’s basketball team Saturday. Shaquan Cantrell scored 21 points as Gainesville never trailed in winning the Region 8-AAAAA championship, 72-61 at Apalachee High School.
Salem, which has never won a region title, will be the league’s No. 2 seed and host Region 5 No. 3 Allatoona when the state playoffs begin this week.
Dedrick Turner, who led all scorers with 24 points, had four fouls throughout much of the final period, but relentlessly attacked the basket. He was rewarded for his aggressiveness, going 10-of-12 from the line, helping get the Seminoles as close as 64-61 at the 2:53 mark of the fourth.
But Salem wouldn’t score again.
Cantrell, who was named the region's top player after the game, caught Deshaun Watson’s in-bounds pass for a bucket, start of an 8-0, game-ending run.
Gainesville looked poised to pull away midway through the third, after a 3-pointer by Cantrell made it 48-37 and Turner picked up his third and fourth fouls 15 seconds apart.
Instead, the Seminoles scored the next eight points-Jamaal Garror had a put back and two assists during the run-and it was a 48-45 game with three minutes to play.
In the first half, Turner got to the free throw line four times and hit 7-of-8 attempts, and a late 3-pointer by Jousel Lumpkin kept the Seminoles close at 30-27 with just under two minutes to play.
But the long ball hurt Salem all half. Watson drained consecutive three-pointers, two of Gainesville’s seven first-half baskets from behind the arc and the Red Elephants grabbed a 38-31 lead at the break when Chase England hit the final three of the half with two seconds to play.
“Gainesville is tough, athletic, but we allowed too much easy (points),” said Salem coach Noah Harrell.