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Salem cruises to 20th straight win

The Salem girls basketball team spent the regular season proving on a nightly basis it was the finest team in Region 8-AAAAA. The start of the postseason didn’t change that fact much at all.

Ayanna Mitchell had 16 of her 20 points in the first half and the Seminoles had one of the season’s most demonstrative defensive efforts statewide in defeating Heritage 51-10 in the quarterfinals Monday at Apalachee High School.

The top-seed Seminoles (22-2), who won their 20th consecutive game, will play the winner of No. 4 seed Flowery Branch and fifth-seeded Loganville in Tuesday’s semifinals.

Heritage (3-25) didn’t score until Damali Thomas’ three-point play with 4:28 to play in the third quarter. By then, the Seminoles held a 40-3 advantage on their way to allowing the program’s fewest points since a 43-8 win over Jones County in January, 2010.

The outcome was never in doubt as Salem forced 10 first-quarter turnovers and led 20-0 heading into the second. It was 27-0 when Heritage guard Alexis Hawkins had a chance to end the shutout, but instead missed two free throws with 3:23 to go until halftime.

Heritage went into the halftime locker room down 34-0 and Mitchell had four points in the early stages of the third and the Seminoles went up 40-0 at the 4:39 mark.

Akila Murray hit a long 3-pointer with 3 1/2 minutes to go in the game that made it a 45-6 game. Thomas followed with four straight points that got the Patriots into double-digits at 47-10.