Photo: Karl L. Moore South Gwinnett's Arielle Harvey (12) gets called for the foul on the attempted block of Berkmar's Jirah Simpkins' (33) shot during Tuesday night's game at South Gwinnett.
SNELLVILLE -- As competitive as Region 8-AAAAAA is in both boys and girls basketball, finishing out games with a strong fourth quarter is usually critical.
And the leaders heading into the final frame took different paths in each game of Tuesday night's doubleheader between Berkmar and South Gwinnett at South. On one end of the spectrum, Berkmar's boys nearly let a 17-point lead slip away before making just enough plays in the final minute to finally secure a 59-55 win.
But earlier in the evening, South's girls scored more points in the fourth quarter than they had in the first half alone, with Arielle Harvey, Colette Onenda and Jashawna Johnson each scoring six points in the final frame to help the Comets put away a 58-49 victory.
The win by Berkmar's boys (10-9, 7-5) got 16 points from C.J. Foster, plus 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots from Tim Rowe, to stay in a tie with Dacula for fourth place in the region.
But after the Patriots took as much as a 52-35 lead after Rowe's free throw 12 seconds into the fourth quarter, the game got a lot more interesting at the end than coach Gregory Phillips would've preferred.
"If you get a big lead like that, you've got to maintain it," Phillips said. "You can't give up (22) points in a quarter, especially the fourth quarter. But we had some guys make some free throws and some guys make some plays at the end."
Berkmar had committed just three turnovers in the first half, but committed the bulk of its 18 miscues for the game in the fourth quarter under heavy pressure from South. Meanwhile, Kyle Wright came off the bench to give the Comets a spark, scoring 10 of his team-high 16 points in the final period, including a driving layup down the lane with 23 seconds left to finish an 18-3 run that pulled South as close as 53-51.
"We only had three turnovers in the first half," Phillips said. "Then in the second half, we tried to save the lead instead of continuing to do what got us the lead."
That changed on Berkmar's next possession as Joseph Gordon found Rowe in the low post, and the 6-foot-9 junior pivoted to his left, took one dribble along the baseline underneath the basket and calmly hit the reverse layup to give the Patriots a little breathing room at 55-51 with 58 seconds left.
In the girls game, the two teams traded the lead 11 times with three ties over the first 2 quarters, the last time after Harvey -- who scored her team's first 11 points and finished with a double-double at 21 points and 14 rebounds -- put South in front 24-23 with 5:16 left in the third quarter.
"She came out so strong for us and she carried us in the first half," South coach Jaime Fisher said. "We were have a tough time hitting our shots, but Arielle went in and got rebounds and putbacks, and she really carried us in the first half."
But the lead still just a scant 26-25, the Comets (13-8, 8-4) went to work, using an 8-3 run, keyed by five points from Johnson and two points and an assist from Taylor Harris, to take as much as s 35-28 lead with 1:31 left in the period.
Still, Berkmar (10-11, 5-5) was able to hang around as Nina Williams' bucket with four seconds left sent the Patriots into the fourth quarter down just 35-30.
But Johnson quickly buried a 3-pointer to open the final frame to push the lead back to eight at 38-30, and Harvey finished off a 10-5 run with a stickback that gave South its biggest lead of the game at 52-40 with 3:38 remaining.
Berkmar got as close as eight points twice more, the last time at 54-46 following Daijah Cook's transition layup with 1:33 left. But the Comets were able to get to the line, where Onenda and Johnson each converted 1-and-1 opportunities to put the game out of reach. Johnson joined Harvey in double figures with 16 points, as did Harris, who had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Williams led Berkmar with 10 points, while Cooke added eight points, seven rebounds and five assists.