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Herald No. 1 Monroe escapes rival Dougherty

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- It's nice to be sure.

You know, dead-solid positive. Sure as a man can be.

That's how Monroe boys basketball coach Marquis Davis sounded. That's how he looked. That's how he felt.

He was talking about Robert Arnold, and the way the Monroe senior had buried two free throws with 11 seconds left to break the backs of city rivalry Dougherty on Tuesday night.

There was Arnold, calmly putting the game away for a 40-36 final to keep Herald No. 1 Monroe (10-0) perfect and to keep Davis and everyone on the southside of Albany smiling.

"No doubt,'' said Davis. "There was no doubt in my mind he was going to make those free throws.''

No doubts for Arnold either.

After all, he dropped in a pair of free throws to beat Albany, 57-55, with no time on the clock earlier this season.

"I'm getting used to it,'' Arnold said.

And the Monroe fans are is getting used to this team winning every night.

Monroe is 10-0 and counting -- though, nothing counts as much as this week as the Tornadoes now have to face two more city foes, fellow unbeaten Herald No. 2 Westover, on Friday, then Albany on Saturday night in a three-game gauntlet run that should tell everyone in Southwest Georgia everything they need to know about Monroe.

Staying unbeaten? Now that's pressure.

"There's a lot more pressure being undefeated than there is shooting those free throws,'' Arnold said. "We know we have to keep it going and everyone gets up to play us. And everyone (who follows the team) expects us to blow out every team we play.''

But there was no sign of any blowout Tuesday.

Not in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Dougherty, where they were elbow-to-elbow in the stands -- not to mention elbow-to-elbow on the court in a tough, physical game.

Just ask Dougherty's Arabian Williams, who scored a game-high 21 points. The Herald Super 6er bagged four 3s and gave Monroe fits all night. And Williams did all this despite being knocked out of the game late in the third quarter after a hard fall to floor. Williams remained flat-face on the court for more than three minutes before rising and smiling. He sat out the final two minutes of the third quarter, then came back early in the fourth for Dougherty's final run.

"He's all right,'' said Dougherty coach Donald Poole, whose team went colder than the current Georgia winter in the first half.

Dougherty was ready for Monroe and -- thanks to Williams, who scored 11 first-quarter points -- jumped out to 6-0, 8-2 and 17-7 leads. Those leads were short-lived, though, as Dougherty went 0-for in the second quarter. That's right, the Trojans did not score a field goal in the second quarter, and would have been shut out if not for Chris Holmes' free throw in the opening minute.

"We had to pick up our defensive intensity,'' Davis said.

That's an understatement.

Williams hit a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in the first quarter, and Doughersty did not score from the field again until Williams made a jumper with 6:00 left in the third quarter -- that's 10 minutes and 42 seconds without a basket.

Arnold finished the night with 13 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks -- including the game saver.

"Robert does a lot of things for us,'' Davis said.

Arnold, a Herald Super 6er, will have to keep doing them -- especially during this three-game Region 1-AAA rivalry stretch this week. Herald Super 6er Brandon Johnson played in just his fourth game after coming back from a knee injury, and saw only about half the time. Davis said he is using him sparingly for now.

But that doesn't change all that perfection pressure that comes with being unbeaten.

But then again -- as Arnold said about the free throws -- Monroe is "getting used to it.''

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DOUGHERTY GIRLS 51, MONROE 42:

Here's the question of the week for math geeks and hoops experts: How do you turn the ball over 28 times and still win?

They know the secret at Dougherty High, where the Lady Trojans did everything they could to throw the game away in the second quarter, before snatching it back down the stretch Tuesday night.

About those 28 turnovers. They came in the first half alone --- 21 in the second quarter.

"Ridiculous, just ridiculous,'' said Dougherty coach Charlene Jackson, who spent most of her halftime speech telling her girls to hang on to the ball.

It worked.

Dougherty took a 16-7 lead early, thanks to Jessica Roberts, who scored 11 of Dougherty's first 13 points, only to watch it dissolve in that give-away spree in the second quarter. Monroe, led by LaKeisha Jackson and Shanaqua Young, who both finished with 12 points, took advantage and went to the half with a 28-21 lead. That's right, Dougherty scored five points in the second quarter.

Still, the Lady Trojans put it behind them, and stormed back in front of the sellout crowd, and when Tiara Todd, who finished with 10 points, made the steal and a drive to lift Dougherty to a 41-40 lead with three minutes left, the gym erupted.

"Once the crowd got into it, that seemed to really get us going,'' Jackson said.

Whether it was the crowd or Todd's drive, Dougherty took off on a six-point run as Jasmine Lavant, who finished with 12 points, hit a pair of shots to lift the Lady Trojans to a 45-40 lead with 1:30 left. Young hit a jumper for Monroe to close to 45-42, then Roberts took over down the stretch, dropping in four free throws in two consecutive trips to the free throw line in the final minute.

Those free throws were her first points since the first quarter. She finished with 15 points, including three 3-pointers.

But in the end, it was defense and a short memory that won this rivarly Region 1-AAA game for Dougherty (4-5) against a stubborn Monroe (3-8) team.

"They responded,'' Jackson said. "We knew it was giong to be a dogfight, but the girls never gave up. I have to give a lot of credit to my assistant coach Corey Joyner, ho coaches our defense. Defense won the game (Tuesday night).''