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Baldwin, Apalachee too much for Salem in semis

Kamar Baldwin had been relatively quiet after one half of Tuesday’s Region 8-AAAAA quarterfinal game. But in the second half, the Apalachee guard made plenty of noise.

Baldwin scored 18 of his 22 points over the final 16 minutes in third-seeded Apalachee’s 64-57 victory over Salem.

Apalachee (23-4) will play the winner of Tuesday’s late semifinal game between top-seed Clarke Central and No. 5 seed Gainesville in tonight’s region championship game at 8:30 p.m., while No. 7 seed Salem (8-19) takes on the loser in a 5:30 p.m. third-place game.

Austin Samuel had a three-point play for the last of his 11 points to get Salem within 54-52 with 2:53 to go in the game, and the Seminoles were still down just two a minute later on a bucket by Kristopher Bridgeman, but the Conyers school could get no closer.

Baldwin, who had 13 of his points in the fourth, Alantae Billings (18 points) and Kent Knowles went a combined 10 of 12 from the free-throw line over the final two minutes to seal the win.

Salem trailed 58-54 with a minute and a half to play when poor free throw shooting doomed the Seminoles. Demyon Greenwood missed four straight free throws on the same possession and Samuel was long on the front end of a 1-and-1 opportunity that could’ve cut the deficit to five with 30 seconds to go.

Salem held a lead as large as six points in the third, and still held a 39-36 advantage after a bucket by Robert Baker with 2 1/2 minutes to play in the third. Apalachee followed with a 14-6 spurt and went up 50-45 on a free throw by Baldwin.

It was a 54-47 Apalachee lead after Baldwin knocked down a foul line jumper at the 3:35 mark of the fourth. Samuel had a put back of his own miss before converting the three-point play.

Apalachee took a one-point lead into the halftime locker room, thanks to a big first half from Billings. The junior guard had eight of his 10 first-half points in the second, including a 3-pointer and a pair of lay ups over the final five minutes of the half, the last of which was with 28 seconds and put the Wildcats up 26-25 at the break.

It could’ve been a one-point Salem lead, but Baker’s lay up attempt at the buzzer was blocked by Baldwin, and though it looked to be goaltending on Baldwin’s part, the basket was not allowed.

Bridgeman assisted on three early baskets, then hit a three in the corner with just under two minutes remaining in the first quarter that gave Salem a 13-7 lead.

Joey German drained two first-quarter threes and he brought Apalachee to within 13-10 at the one-minute mark of the opening quarter. The teams went back and forth in the second with Salem holding its last first-half cushion at 25-24 on Quintavius Byrd’s lay up.

Greenwood, Bridgeman and Byrd each had 12 points to pace Salem.