CAIRO -- Syrupmakers?
How about heartbreakers? Newsmakers? Poll shakers?
Cairo's boys basketball stunned Herald No. 1 Westover on Tuesday night, 67-64, less than 24 hours after the Patriots moved into the No. 1 spot in the Top 5 Poll.
Westover (20-4) had taken over the top spot after downing previously unbeaten Monroe, 77-63, on Friday at Monroe, which had been No. 1 in The Herald and No. 1 in the Class AAA state poll. Westover followed that victory with a win against city rival Albany on Saturday, but then fell Tuesday on the road to a Cairo team that lost, 49-42, to Monroe earlier this season. And in what's shaping up to be a dangerous game for the Tornadoes, Monroe faces Cairo on Friday at home in the final Region 1-AAA game of the regular season.
"I kind of thought we might have a little letdown,'' Westover coach Dallis Smith said. "You can't do that. I always say this time of year it's all mental. They weren't mentally prepared. This time of year you have to be ready every time you step on the court.''
Cairo took an early lead, and then held on at the end as Westover made one final push to close to within two points -- 66-64 -- with 40 seconds left.
Westover had chances to tie or win the game, but missed three consecutive shots in the paint, and finally had to foul in the final seconds. Cairo made one of two free throws, and Westover's final 3-pointer fell short.
"We had our chances,'' Smith said. "We just didn't close it out. We had the shots (the three at the end in the paint), but they just didn't drop -- they just didn't drop.''
Onochie Ochie led Westover with 17 points and nine rebounds, and Malcolm Sapp, who hit five 3s and scored 21 against Monroe last week, followed with 15 points. Chris Wheeler added 12.
Cairo (16-7, 8-5) built a 12-point lead in the second half before Westover chipped away at the lead in the fourth quarter. The Patriots did most of their damage at the free throw line. Westover converted 24-of-37 free throws, and in the process fouled out Cairo's Duane Willis, John'ta Cooper and Da'Keidres Wade. Cairo dressed only nine players.
"(Westover's) got a good basketball team," Cairo coach Isiah Chance said. "It was a game of runs. They're going to make their run. It was a good
basketball game, both teams battling."
Cairo's Jemonta Baker was a difference maker. He led the game with 28 points, including five 3-pointers.
"He's playing well. Right now, he's playing really well," Chance added.
Baker also hit 5-of-6 free throws and had a key basket off an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter. Terrell Bryant added 12 points for the Syrupmakers, who played much of the fourth quarter with five guards.
"Cairo is always tough at home,'' said Smith, whose team is 10-3 in the Region 1-AAA race and firmly in control of second place. Cairo is 8-5 in the region and will be the No. 3 seed in next week's region tournament, which will be held at either Peach County or Westover. If Westover's girls beat Peach County, all the tournament games will be at Westover.
"That's how it is,'' said Smith, after the disappointing loss. "We'll probably see them Thursday. We're No. 2 and they're No. 3, so we'll play them next week.''
Thomasville Times-Enterprise sports editor Clint Thompson contributed to this report.