The Salem Seminoles varsity basketball team concluded its season Friday on a high note, defeating the Gainesville Red Elephants 61-58 on Senior Night.
Quintavious Byrd led the Seminoles in scoring with 24 points, as Salem rebounded from six consecutive losses to win its final regular season game.
The loss gave the Seminoles a 7-18 overall record with a 4-12 mark in Region 8-AAAAA play, while the Red Elephants dropped to 15-10 overall and 8-8 in league action.
“The whole team was trying to get over this losing streak and it was Senior Night and we wanted to get this win,” Byrd said. “We finally played as a team and played all four quarters.”
The game opened up with the Red Elephants going on a quick 4-0 run.
Kristopher Bridgeman made a pair of free throws to give the Seminoles their first points of the game, but Gainesville responded with a 3-pointer by Sam Carpenter.
Byrd responded to Carpenter’s make with a basket of his own, starting off a back-and-forth contest throughout the fourth quarter. At the end of eight minutes, the Red Elephants held a slim 17-11 lead heading into the second quarter.
Gainesville hit its first three shots of the second period, extending its lead with an 8-0 run which saw Cedric Bryant score five points.
Byrd responded with a 3-pointer, but Gainesville’s shot kept hitting. The Red Elephants went on another quick 5-0 run with a 3-pointer from Luke Maddox and a layup from Ithello Cross.
Salem matched Gainesville shot for shot in the waning minutes of the half, cutting Gainesville’s lead to 37-27 at halftime with a quarter-ending 5-0 run.
Salem came out of halftime scoring on consecutive layups from Demyon Greewood and Bridgeman and the Seminoles continued to play consistent, trimming the Red Elephants’ advantage to one heading into the fourth quarter.
Leading 47-46, Gainesville slowly added back to its lead on free throws and a shot by Nam Van Dulm, but the Seminoles kept fighting. Salem went on a 5-0 run to tie game at 51-51, but they couldn’t keep the Red Elephants from the free throw line.
Bryant made two out of three free-throw attempts, giving Gainesville a two point lead.
The Seminoles responded with a pair of free throws from Byrd and on the next possession, Bridgeman made a free throw, giving the Seminoles their first lead of the game at 54-53.
Rodney Lackey made a layup to give the Red Elephants back the lead, but the Seminoles quickly took it back on a layup by Byrd.
Trailing by four, Bryant made a layup for the Red Elephants that cut it to two points, but Bryd made a free throw to bring it back to three. Gainesville was unable to hit after Byrd’s shot, falling by the 61-58 final.
Salem coach Noah Harrell said that Salem’s past experience in close games paid dividends in its final regular season contest.
“One of the things we’ve been able to do lately is really play close in games and we’ve started it with our defense,” Harrell said. “I was so upset with us in the first half for allowing too many easy baskets and allowing shooters open shots.
“In the second half we came out and reversed it and I’m very proud of their effort,” he said.
Salem returns to action, weather permitting, Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Loganville in the quarterfinals of the Region 8-AAAAA Tournament against Heritage.