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Mammoth early-season duel: Monroe vs. Terrell tonight

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- If opposites attract then the boys basketball teams from Monroe and Terrell County are a match made in heaven -- or at least in Southwest Georgia.

They couldn't be much more different in style and size, but they share tradition, great coaching, loyal fanbases, success and even the same team colors.

"It's the battle of the green and gold,'' said Monroe boys coach Marquis Davis, who is in his fourth year as the head coach for the Tornadoes, while Greenwave head coach John Davis is in his 10th season. "It's a rivalry game, and it's something that started long before I came here.''

Monroe won both games last year, and both were classics, especially the opening game in Dawson, where Terrell County had a lead late in the game until Robert Arnold, a power forward who was The Herald's Willie Boston Player of the Year, made the first 3-pointer of his high school career to give Monroe the lead for good in the final minute.

It's usually that kind of game, and no one expects anything less tonight.

Both teams will hit the court with unbeaten records.

The Greenwave (4-0) moved from No. 5 in the Class A coaches state poll up to No. 4 this week and Monroe comes in with a 4-0 record with two wins against Class AAAAA teams with a group of players who demand the attention of the state's Class AAA Top 10 poll. Monroe might not be ranked now, but should be, and there's little doubt this team can make a strong run toward a state title in March.

Monroe is The Herald's No. 1 ranked team, and Terrell County is ranked No. 5.

Monroe started last season at 20-0 and one of the biggest scares of that run was against Terrell County, a 41-37 win that took the streak to 15-0. Monroe played Terrell County in the second game of the series last year on the night after suffering its first loss of the season and beat the Greenwave, 64-57.

John Davis returns four starters from his Final Four team from last season, but his tallest starter stands just 6-feet. Monroe's inside players, meanwhile, are 6-7, 6-7 and the small forward is 6-5.

"I think we'll be fine,'' said the Greenwave coach, who starts four guards. "We're not going to focus on what we don't have. We're going to focus on what we do have.''

What Terrell County has is quickness, speed, court awareness and arguably the best point guard in Southwest Georgia in Terel Hall, who hands out assists like every day is Christmas.

The game will also feature two Herald Super 6er players in Hall, who dropped 28 points last Saturday against Randolph-Clay, and Rantavious Gilbert, who blocked three shots while playing less than 16 minutes on Saturday night in Monroe's one-sided victory against Class AAAAA Colquitt County.

This could be a classic showdown between two teams that play different styles as Monroe can dominate a game inside with Gilbert, a 6-7 junior, and Jabari McGhee, a 6-7 sophomore who appears to be the area's biggest rising star, while Terrell County depends on the quickness of Hall, a 5-7 lightning-bug point guard, and the outside shooting of Markez Dotson, a talented guard who can make teams pay from the perimeter.

"We know we are undersized,'' John Davis said. "We have to stay focused and do what we do best.''

The contrasting styles of the two teams make this one of the most intriguing matchups of the season, and a test for both coaches and their players.

"In a game against Terrell County, height is not a factor,'' Marquis Davis said. "They play an up-tempo style. It's going to be important for our guys to get up and down the floor.''

Both coaches like facing the opposite styles of play, because both have aspirations of going deep in the playoffs (or winning it all later), and they know they could face different kinds of teams in the playoffs.

"It's good for us to play Terrell County because of the style of game they play,'' Marquis Davis said. "Because we don't have teams in our region that play that style. Terrell County (is) unique.''

They feel the same way in Dawson.

"It's always a good test,'' John Davis said. "It's early and we're still working on everything. They play good basketball at Monroe, so it's always good to play them.''

It's one of those non-region games that everyone talks about, and everyone wants to see. There will be a standing-room-only crowd tonight at Monroe, where the girls game begins at 6 p.m. and the boys will start around 7:30.

"No doubt about it (it will be packed in the gym),'' Marquis Davis said. "It's always a fast-paced, competitive game. I think our guys enjoy it, and I think Terrell County enjoys it.''