MACON -- Don't ever count the Monroe girls basketball team out of a game. The way the Lady Tornadoes run and steal, they can come back on anyone - any time.
Just ask Rutland's Lady Hurricanes, who were blown off their own court Saturday afternoon when Monroe stormed back from a 20-point deficit to beat Rutland, 66-58, in the opening round of the GHSA Class AAA state tournament.
Rutland, the No. 1 seed from Region 4-AAA, ripped off a 28-8 start before Monroe started stealing the ball -- and the game.
That's nothing new for Monroe.
"I don't know if it's been 20 points, but it's been close," Monroe coach Cheryl Cheeks said of previous comebacks this season. "We won two of them."
But they don't come bigger than the first round of the playoffs, which Monroe hasn't visited since the late 1990s.
"A lot of it was nerves," Cheeks said of the Tornadoes' eight points and nine turnovers in the first quarter. "None of us have been here before."
Lakeisha Jackson led Monroe with 21 points while Ashley Johnson added 12.
"(Jackson) is the player they go to," Rutland head coach Johnny Dixon said. "She played strong. She was aggressive."
But it was Monroe's defense that put this one away.
Rutland was scoreless for 5:08 in the second quarter, coming up empty on 13 straight possessions and turning the ball over 13 times in the quarter. Still, Rutland led 37-29 at halftime.
"We just set them down and talked to them," Cheeks said. "We told them to just do what we asked them to do. Play our defensive game and we were going to be OK. 'Just be calm and play defense and we can get back in it.' "
Jessica Burks' putback and Sheniqua Young's two free throws gave Monroe a 48-46 lead entering the fourth. A 5-0 run to start the final quarter put Monroe in control with a nine-point lead that never dropped below five the rest of the way.
"We can't take anything from Monroe," said Dixon, whose team beat Monroe 42-37 in December. "They're a good team."
AHS GIRLS DONE:
MACON -- Jasmine Myers did everything she could to get the Albany girls basketball team through the first round of the Class AA state playoffs, but it wasn't enough.
Myers kept the Squaws (11-11) in the game by scoring 18 of her game-high 23 points after halftime. But Albany couldn't overcome its 26 turnovers or the trio of Maria Bond, Jerryshia Williams and Ronecia Curry.
Those three combined for 47 of Northeast's points, led by Williams' 18. Bond shot just 4-of-15 from the floor but scored 16 while hitting 10-of-12 from the foul line, and Curtis had 13.
Northeast improved to 25-3 despite shooting 20-of-62 from the floor, including 3-of-17 from 3-point range, as the Squaws used a box-and-one defense that focused on Bond.
BURLEY PACES MITCHELL TO SECOND ROUND:
CAMILLA -- If you're going to beat Mitchell County, you have to find a way to stop Tiona Burley. Putnam County (19-9) knows that as well as anyone.
Burley dropped in 21 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked two shots to pace Mitchell, which beat Putnam, 50-41, in the opening round of the GHSAA Class AA girls state tournament at home Saturday night.
"Tiona had to step up and play defense,'' said Mitchell coach Rosemary Sanders, who is used to seeing Burley dominate games. Sanders was just as proud of the rest of her team for handling Putnam's pressure.
"They have been in the playoffs for the last three years, and they have a good ball club,'' she added. "They played pretty good defense, but we were able to handle the pressure and keep our composure. At this level, you expect to play good teams, and we did.''
Mitchell grabbed an early 16-10 lead and never trailed. With Burley leading the way Mitchell built the lead to 20 points, before Putnam staged a comeback in the fourth. Kapri Gaines (8 points) and Aschia Davis (6 points) also helped Mitchell build the big lead.
"Tiona's girl, the post for Putnam (Brandi Riley) stepped out and hit three 3s in the fourth quarter,'' Sanders said. "They hit some 3s and that made it a little closer, but we led the whole game.''
Mitchell County (20-7) has won 10 of its last 11 games and faces Appling County, a No. 1 seed, Wednesday on the road.
"We gave up too many 3s at the end of this game,'' Sanders said. "On Wednesday we are really going to have to step up our defense. We have to defend better.''
SEMINOLE BOUNCES BACK:
DONALSONVILLE -- Talk about coming back from a tough loss. No one does it better than Seminole's girls, who shook off a 80-33 loss to Randolph-Clay in the Region 1-A final last week, and came back Saturday to rip by Wilkinson, 57-30, in the opening round of the GHSA Class A state tournament at home.
This was a rout from the start. The Lady Indians were leading 30-13 at halftime, and coach Jesse McLeod emptied his bench to start the fourth quarter.
By then, Carrie Washington had already put up 16 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots. Washington rolled her ankle in the region semifinals, and McLeod was careful with his post player all week.
"She practiced some this week, but not every day,'' McLeod said. "We iced it and her ankle was much better and she was ready to play (Saturday).''
McLeod said his team was ready.
"We were worried (after that loss to RC), but our girls had a good week of practice and were real focused on this game," he said. "We did the same things we were doing when we were winning. I was very proud of the effort.''
Seminole (14-6) had three girls in double figures. Katrese Brown scored 16 points and Alexus Watson scored 12. The Lady Indians are on the road Wednesday to face Taylor, a No. 1 seed, in the second round.
The Macon Telegraph contributed to these reports