Salem was awarded the opportunity to host the region tournament this year and they opened the semifinals with a match against Flowery Branch at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon. The region tournament hosts put on a show with a thrilling 52-47 victory over Flowery Branch.
Ayanna Mitchell was the MVP of the contest. Mitchell opened up the game scoring Salem's first seven points. She would score 12 of the team's 18 first-half points, she attacked the basket relentlessly and went 6-9 from the charity stripe.
Down 27-21 in the second half, Mitchell went on a 5-0 scoring run to bring the game within one before Breanne Locke hit a three to put the Lady Falcons up 30-26.
Trailing 35-28 in the fourth, a Shay Tarver and-one and a Mitchell steal-transition-layup got the Lady ‘Noles back into the game, down 35-33 with 7:13 to go.
Salem kept charging, but every time the Lady Seminoles got close, the Lady Falcons just hit shots to maintain their lead. The Lady Falcons were back up by seven with five minutes to go, and Salem's chances were fading.
The Lady ‘Noles made another charge as the game winded down. Tarver got fouled behind the arc and made all three free throws to bring Salem within two (44-42). Mitchell would hit a layup to tie the game. Salem played great defense on the other end and forced a turnover.
Salem head coach Rochone Dilligard took a timeout at the 1:30 mark to dial up a play. The Lady ‘Noles worked about 10 seconds off the clock and then went to work. Mitchell got the ball and drove down the middle of the lane to hit the jumper and give Salem a 46-44 lead.
Salem's defense held and Mitchell hit two free throws to give Salem a 48-44 lead and the game as Flowery Branch just wasn't able to climb back in. Mitchell finished with 30 points including 12 in the fourth quarter while Tarver finished with 18 points, also scoring 12 in the fourth.
Salem will play in the region championship game Saturday evening at 6 p.m.