Heading into the finals of the 2AA-North Junior High District Tournament at Sloan-Hendrix Feb. 14, it looked like Salem had ideas on cornering the market on hardware for the trophy case back at the Dawg Pound.
As it turned out, the Hounds brought one first-place and one runner-up trophy back with them to Fulton County.
The junior Lady Greyhounds took top honors in the tournament with a 37-32 win over host Sloan-Hendrix, while the ICC junior Cougars knocked off Salem 44-34 in the junior boys' final.
In junior girls' play, Salem led wire-to-wire in the game, but Sloan-Hendrix made things interesting late in the game.
With Salem holding serve by 10 points, 34-24, at the 2:10 mark of the fourth period, the Lady Greyhounds of Sloan-Hendrix made one last surge at the lead.
Tonya Dotson converted back-to-back traditional 3-point plays, and then sank two free throws, all in a 30-second span to draw Sloan-Hendrix within two points, 34-32, the closet they had been to the lead since early in the second period.
Not panicking, Salem got three late free throws from Brittney Richardson, and a big defensive play from Jamie James to seal the win.
After a Salem turnover kept the door open for Sloan-Hendrix with 37 ticks left on the clock, James blocked a 3-point attempt by Dotson to end the potential threat.
Salem, the tourney's number one seed, got off to a quick start in the first period, leading 9-4 after one.
Much as she was during the regular season, Richardson proved to be the one thing that Salem's conference foes had no answer for.
Richardson tossed in 12 of her game-high 24 points in the first half, including a triple at the 1:32 mark of the second period that gave Salem a 16-10 lead.
Up 18-11 to begin the second half of play, Salem saw Sloan-Hendrix edge back into the contest with a 6-1 run early in the third.
Aided by a couple of Salem miscues, Sloan-Hendrix cut further into margin with four unanswered points to close the third period trailing by four, 25-21.
Sloan-Hendrix' momentum from the third period took a bit of a hit with a technical foul just seconds inside the start of the fourth.
This helped Salem to recharge and open up a 10-point lead late in the game, enough of a cushion that they survived a late charge by Sloan-Hendrix to add the district tourney title to their regular-season crown with a five-point win.
Hasi Bray added four points for Salem, while Lauren Hall finished with three. Megan Cox and Jamie James tallied two points each, while Jody McCullough and Jenny Neal scored a point apiece.
In the junior boys' final, the junior Greyhounds were looking to avenge a loss to ICC in the finals of the Izard County Tournament a few weeks earlier.
It wasn't to be on this night, however, as a sluggish second period cost the second-seeded junior Greyhounds, with top-seeded ICC prevailing by 10, 44-34.
The junior Cougars fell behind early in the first period as turnover problems kept them from gaining any kind of flow on offense.
Meanwhile, the junior Greyhounds worked the low blocks with their twin towers of Jeff Nelson and Seth Lindbloom for a fast 12-2 advantage.
Lindbloom paced Salem with 12 points, while Nelson tossed in seven.
The junior Cougars chipped into the margin a bit before the end of the first, trailing 12-5 after one.
The junior Hounds bogged down in the second period, posting just two field goals in the frame, as ICC grabbed the lead for the first time since the game's opening bucket.
James Morgan tossed in five of his game-high 19 points in the second for the junior Cougars, and Kyle McCandlis added five to help ICC to an 18-17 lead at the half.
The third period was similar to the second for Salem, with a lot of time elapsing between field goals for the junior Hounds.
Meanwhile, ICC ripped off a 7-zip run to move in front 28-21 late in the period.
A tipin by Lindbloom at the buzzer brought the junior Greyhounds within five, 28-23, at the end of the third.
The junior Cougars padded their lead to 10 with five straight free throws to start the last period and went on to add a district tourney crown to their regular season title. The junior Greyhounds finished in a tie with Melbourne for runner-up in the regular season.
Curtis Clark finished with nine for ICC, while Joey Stefka and Adam Montgomery added four each. Scott Small and Michael Martin tallied two apiece.
Lance Powell tossed in 10 points for Salem, with Dustin Vaughn adding three, and Derek Estes two.