A 20-point fourth quarter performance helped the Salem Seminoles to their second win of the week Saturday afternoon, defeating rival Rockdale County 51-45 on the road in non-region action.
The Seminoles rebounded after falling in overtime to Loganville the previous night, and Salem senior Quintavious Byrd scored 20 points to help the Seminoles to their sixth win of the season.
Salem went 6-of-7 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and Austin Samuel scored nine fourth-quarter points, as Salem overcame a third-quarter deficit against their rivals in their first meeting of the season.
“This win was really big,” Salem coach Noah Harrell said. “Last night’s game was tough and winning this one was a big confidence booster for our team.”
Salem entered the fourth quarter trailing 32-21, but the Seminoles took the lead for good 75 seconds into the quarter, reclaiming the lead it relinquished in the third quarter on a Robert Baker runner in the lane. Baker’s score started a 10-2 run for the Seminoles, capped off by a Byrd 3-pointer from the left wing with 5:12 left in the game that put Salem ahead 41-34.
Rockdale’s Jalen Jordan connected on a 3-pointer two minutes later to bring the Bulldogs back within a possession of the Seminoles, but Byrd answered with his second triple of the quarter, matching Jordan’s shot to put Salem back up by five.
Samuel scored on a baseline dunk that got the visiting Salem faithful out of their seats on the Seminoles’ next possession, but Rockdale’s Brian Jessie connected with a hook shot and hit a pair of free throws to cut Salem’s lead back to three with 1:48 to go in the game.
Jessie’s free throws were the last points for the Bulldogs until the 12 second mark, as Salem iced the game at the free throw line, going 5-of-6 at the charity stripe in the final minute of the game, extending its lead to 51-43. Jamal Turner grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a putback to cut the lead to six, but Rockdale was unable to convert a 3-pointer after a Salem turnover, giving the Seminoles the 6-point win.
The game featured three lead changes and three ties in the third period, as Salem was unable to hold onto a 4-point lead after halftime.
“Our guys understood that we had been stifling them all game,” Harrell said. “We were shooting ourselves in the foot. We were holding ourselves back. We started converting those shots closer to the basket in the final quarter and it helped us take back control of the game. We hit our free throws down the stretch and made the ones later on that counted, so you have to be happy with the win. Our guys came through in the clutch.”
Rockdale began the third quarter on a 4-0 run, tying the Seminoles 26-26 on a Tajee Steele fast-break score and a Jelani Clarrington steal and layup.
Rockdale took a 32-30 advantage when Steele converted another layup off a Salem turnover. Jarrett Cook knocked down a free throw to end the Seminoles scoring in the quarter, sending Salem down 32-31 into the fourth quarter,
Steele and Ray Washington scored four points each in the third quarter for Rockdale, as the Bulldogs held Salem to just five points in the period.
Salem led by as many as eight in the second quarter, taking a 15-7 lead on a Byrd steal and layup. Down 19-12, Rockdale coach Al Williams called a time out and inserted five new players. The group of Conner Ferrell, Mike Murray, Jordan, Clarrington and Washington cut Salem’s lead to three with a Jordan 3-pointer and Washington free throw, and Rockdale tied the game with 1:10 to go in the first half on a Jamal Turner shot at the charity stripe.
Rockdale’s Washington and Darryl Tucker combined for three blocks on the Seminoles’ ensuing possession, but the final block found an open Byrd who drained a jumper, giving Salem a slim 2-point advantage.
Byrd closed the first half with a pair of free throws, pushing Salem’s lead to 26-22 at the break.
Byrd scored five points in the opening quarter, part of his 13 first-half points, giving Salem an 11-4 edge over the opening eight minutes of action.
Rockdale scored the first basket of the game on a Ferrell layup with 6:27 left in the first quarter, but didn’t score again until the 2:28 mark on a Jessie layup.
Byrd and Michael Green hit a trio of 3-pointers in the opening quarter for Salem, as the Seminoles scored their first nine points ofthe game from beyond the arc.
Samuel finished with nine points for Salem, while Jessie and Jordan had eight points apiece in the Bulldogs’ third consecutive loss.
The Rockdale Bulldogs dropped a 77-50 decision to Luella on the road Friday night, scoring just 18 points in the second half in region play.
Luella led 20-18 after the first quarter and poured in 20 more points in the second period to lead Rockdale 40-32 at the break.
The Lions outscored Rockdale by 14 in the third quarter before holding Rockdale to six points in the fourth for the 27-point victory.
Jordan led Rockdale with 14 points, while Tucker finished with nine.
Salem fell in overtime at home against Loganville 65-56.
Salem held at 21-7 lead after the first quarter, but were unable to hold off the Red Devils in region action.
Samuel finished with a team-high 11 points, while Baker added 10 in the loss. Green had eight points for Salem, all coming in the first half.