The Salem girls’ varsity basketball team rebounded well after its first loss of the season Tuesday, outlasting Newton 57-55 on the road in the Lady Rams’ third game in four nights.
Ayanna Mitchell led the Lady Seminoles with 22 points, including 10-points in the second quarter, to move Salem to 2-1 on the season.
The Lady Rams fell to 1-2, despite a furious third-quarter comeback that saw Newton outscore Salem 18-10 in the period.
In the end, it was a sloppy first half and struggles at the free-throw line in the first half that doomed the Lady Rams, as Salem opened up a 33-22 halftime lead that it never surrendered.
Salem’s Shay Tarver had 11 first-half points, as Salem got to the rim at will over the first 16 minutes, scoring 13 points from the charity stripe over the first two periods.
“I don’t think it was so much of their offense that took us out of our game in the first quarter, but it was their defense,” Newton coach Tiffani Johnson said. “We didn’t play any defense. We were moving our hands instead of moving our feet and they were able to score at will from the free-throw line.”
Salem opened the game on a 9-2 run behind a pair of baskets from Jennifer Tindi and Tarver, extending its lead to seven on a Saailyah Greene 3-pointer from the right corner with 4:30 to go in the first quarter. Newton battled back to cut the lead to 11-10 on a Precious Price 3-pointer that pushed the senior over the 1,000 point mark for her career, but Tarver nailed a floater in the lane with 12 seconds left in the period to give Salem a 13-10 advantage heading into the second period.
In the second quarter, Salem found its groove, outscoring the Lady Rams 13-4 over the final four minutes of the first half.
Newton’s Imani Broadnex trimmed the Lady Seminoles’ lead to 20-18 on a lay-up, but Mitchell scored nine points in the close minutes to push Salem ahead 33-22 at the break. Mitchell scored on a pair of baskets in the paint, while going 5-of-7 at the free-throw line during her second-period run.
“(Ayanna) can do so many things and create so many matchup problems,” Salem coach Rochone Dilligard said. “One of the best things she does that’s so hard to teach is to attack the ball off of the glass.”
Newton roared back, however, in the third quarter, outscoring the Lady Seminoles 18-10 in the period. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Price and Deandra Reed help the Lady Rams claw their back within eight with 3:41 to go, and a pair of baskets from Sonia Farney, who sat much of the first half in foul trouble, trimmed the lead to 42-38.
The Lady Rams ended the quarter on a Cynteria Langhorne rebound and put-back, closing the gap to 43-40 with eight minutes left in the game.
Newton got to within two points of Salem’s lead with a Price 3-pointer with 5:55 to go in the game, but the Lady Seminoles held on to the win, with nine points coming from Mitchell in the period.
Johnson said that the Lady Seminoles’ run in the first half was too much to overcome, despite Newton’s improved second half play.
“I think it took us much of the first half to get our heads together, and by the time the second half came, we had already dug too deep a hole,” Johnson said. “We missed out on a good opportunity. We waited too late to get it going. We have to start playing from the first whistle and stop waiting until we’re down to get our energy up and want to fight. We need to fight from start to finish.”
Price finished with a team-high 20 points, while Reed added 12 in the second half.
Dilligard said that her team succeeded early by being the aggressors and were able to hold on in the second half due to their focus.
“We talk a lot about being the aggressor and making people defend,” Dilligard said. “We really do try to get a lot of lay-ups or we try to get shots for the people in the area where they can hit shots.”
“You have to withstand the run,” she said. “You can’t lose your confidence (when) they come at you with five or six points in a row. The kids hung in there. It’s get it back. If you turn it over, get it back. If you miss a shot, get it back. That’s what we always say; just get it back.”
Both teams return to action Saturday in the 2013 Lady Blue Tip-Off Classic hosted by Norcross, with the Lady Rams taking on South Gwinnett at 2:30 p.m., while Salem tips-off against Columbia at 4 p.m.