CONYERS -- The third quarter was the difference for both Rockdale basketball squads at county rival Heritage on Tuesday night.
The No. 1-ranked Rockdale boys (20-1 overall, 4-0 in Region 8-AAAA South) outscored Heritage 20-9 in the third period en route to a 66-54 victory.
In the girls game, the Lady Bulldogs (10-10, 1-3) broke open the game with a 12-0 run to close out the third period and then held on for a 44-40 win over the Lady Patriots (8-11, 1-3).
Neither boys team played well in the first half as both squads struggled with their outside shooting.
Freshman Caren Wilson's 3-pointer late in the second period helped Rockdale open up a 26-22 halftime advantage.
However, the third quarter belonged to the Bulldogs. Junior Kevin Ware scored nine of his game-high 20 points as Rockdale went on a 20-6 run, increasing the lead to 46-31 by the end of third frame.
"I got some of their attention at halftime, not all of it," Rockdale coach Alvin Williams said. "I mean don't get me wrong, Heritage played hard and they did a good job. But we didn't play well tonight. Our philosophy is you can play defense every night. We hang our hat on defense. If you play great defense, you always have a chance to win games.
"Our kids know that, and that's what we teach. I think that's where they felt they had to step it up in the second half."
In the fourth quarter, Ware's dunk off a fast break gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the night at 56-34.
For most of the night, the Patriots (7-12, 2-2) were ice cold from the outside. Jelani Archer finally hit the Patriots' first 3-pointer of the game with just 6:13 left.
"We just didn't shoot well, especially in the first half," Heritage coach Ron Bradley said. "We were happy with the pace of the game in the first half. We battled them until the third quarter, and then it was over. They've got a lot of weapons. They can attack you any way they want to. They can just play around with you and they can turn it up when they want to.
"It was just a case of extremes in the third quarter. We didn't play well and they did play well. If you have a bad quarter against somebody like that, you're in trouble."
Heritage reeled off a 9-0 run of its own, slicing Rockdale's lead to 56-43.
But then senior point guard Cordarryle Bethley and Ware took over again for Rockdale, combining for eight points down the stretch to seal the victory.
J.T. Shaw added 11 points and eight boards inside for the Bulldogs, while Bethley and Wilson each finished with 10 points. Darion Clark added eight.
Archer tossed in a team-high 17 points for Heritage. Rique Denson added 12 points and seven rebounds.
In the girls game, Mikola Burks hit two 3-pointers in second quarter to help Rockdale scratch out a 21-20 halftime advantage.
With the game tied at 27 in third period, Kree Clark's 3-footer off the glass ignited a 12-0 Lady Bulldogs run to close out the quarter.
Portia McCray followed with a free throw and a 10-footer in the lane, Burks added another 3-pointer and a 12-foot jumper, and McCray scored in the lane to end the run.
However, Heritage rallied in the final stanza. Geovanni Sims scored seven of her game-high 16 points to spark the Lady Patriots.
Sims scored inside with 24 seconds remaining to cut the Rockdale lead to 42-40.
Heritage's Breanna Mitchell came up with a steal off the Rockdale inbounds pass, but Taylor McKibbens missed a shot in the paint and the Lady Bulldogs pulled down the rebound.
Rockdale's Brianna Lawrence hit both ends of a one-and-one with 13.3 seconds left to ice the victory.
Burks finished with a team-high 11 points for Rockdale, while McCray chipped in 10.
Mitchell added 10 for Heritage. Teammate Jana Dixon collected nine points and 10 rebounds.