ALBANY -- Oh, brother!
That's what this game was really all about -- about the bond between Marquis Davis and Kirven Davis, a couple of brothers who grew up playing basketball in Albany and now coach teams at Monroe High and Colquitt County.
They play twice a year, and Saturday's first-round matchup for this season ended just like the first six. Marquis' Monroe Tornadoes, The Herald's No. 1 ranked team, made it look easy in the Monroe gym, beating Colquitt, 48-34, on a night when Marquis played 14 of his 15 players and watched 10 of them score.
Big brother Kirven is now 0-7 against his little brother, but this one comes with a price.
"I'm picking up the check at dinner,'' Kirven said. "I got it. Dinner's on me.''
It's a new tradition in the sibling rivalry. The two brothers take their mother, Gwendolyn Proctor, to dinner after each showdown, and they decided to start a new tradition this year. The loser picks up the tab.
Marquis liked the idea before the game, and smiled after hearing big brother was picking up the check after the game. But it's not about dinner.
"It's always special when you play your brother,'' he said. "Very few people get an opportunity to play against their brother. It's special for us, and it's special for our family.''
Mom, however, doesn't cheer.
In fact, she sits at center court wearing a shirt she had made that reads: "A House Divided: Colquitt County Packers/ Monroe Tornadoes."
"I just watch the game, and then (hug) them both afterward,'' she said after the game Saturday. "They are my heart.''
She's the real winner, a woman who brought up two sons and gave them her strength and character and resolve. It's why both have been so successful and why both were able to have a dream and live the dream.
They will meet again in Moultrie next month, and talk every day from now until then about life and basketball and family -- pushing each other along the way.
Kirven took the loss on Saturday, but this one doesn't sting as much, because he is missing 11 players, including four starters, who are playing for Colquitt County's Class AAAAA state semifinalist football team.
"It will be a better game when we play them next month (in Moultrie),'' Kirven said. "We'll be at full strength. It's always special to play your brother''
His younger brother took it easy, playing his starters for about 16 minutes. Marquis started substituting early. His first five played six minutes in the first quarter, four minutes in the second and about six minutes in the third before sitting down for the rest of the night with a 39-26 lead.
"He is missing a lot of players who are on the football team,'' Marquis said. "And this is what we call the preseason, and it was real good to get to play 14 of our 15 players (Saturday night). Our region starts next week against Americus-Sumter.''
Monroe, which started 20-0 last season, is off to a 3-0 start and so is sophomore Jabari McGhee, who had some big moments in his limited time on the court. He grabbed four rebounds and tossed in four points in the first 90 seconds of the game to help Monroe jump out to a 9-0 start.
"We knew we were playing against (coach's) brother, and we knew we had to come out and play hard or he would be on us,'' said McGhee, who had five rebounds and six points in the first six minutes of the game and finished with nine points, seven rebounds and three steals. "It was good to see the rest of the team get the ball. It's going to make them better and make us better because we need to make sure everybody is ready to play (as the season progresses).''
Rantavious Gilbert had some moments, too. The 6-foot-7 junior blocked three shots, grabbed four rebounds and scored six of his seven points early in the third quarter when he made some strong moves to the basket, including a thundering dunk on a putback.
"I knew in the third quarter that I had to attack the basket more, and be more physical,'' Gilbert said.
That's the idea at Monroe, where the younger Davis wants to develop his two big men this year to try to replace Robert Arnold and Brandon Johnson, who led Monroe a year ago.
"McGhee had a good game,'' Marquis said. "The last two games he has really gotten us off to fast starts. I think he had our first six points in our last game.
"It was a good game for us, and (Kirven's) kids really played hard.''
The Davis brothers wouldn't expect anything else.
COLQUITT COUNTY GIRLS 38, MONROE 37:
Ashley Johnson didn't cry or shake her fists. She just grew a little Saturday night -- with her own brand of growing pains.
Johnson had brought Monroe back, tossing the Lady Tornadoes on her shoulders in the final minutes, but she just couldn't bring them all the way back, missing the second of two free throws with 0.5 seconds left as Monroe fell by one point to Class AAAAA Colquitt County (5-1).
"I just knew she was going to make that last free throw,'' Colquitt County coach Rondeshia Williams said. "Somebody was looking down on me (Saturday).''
Johnson thought she was going to make it, too.
"When the ball left my hand, I knew it was good, and when it hit the back of the rim, I knew I was wrong,'' Johnson said. "I guess it was just one of those nights.''
Johnson scored all 11 her team-high 11 points in the second half, and brought back Monroe (3-2), which was down 36-29 with two minutes left. Johnson closed the score to 36-33 with 1:40 left, then after Colquitt scored on a fastbreak, Johnson busted a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left to close the gap to 38-36, then grabbed a rebound on the other end of the court to give Monroe one final chance. She was fouled, and hit the first free throw to close to 38-37, before her second shot betrayed her.
"I really thought it was going in,'' said Monroe coach Cheryl Cheeks, whose team's two losses are to Class AAAAA teams. "She played an awesome game. You couldn't ask for anything more. She left it all on the court.''