ALBANY -- Monroe has been looking for this fourth quarter all year long, and the Lady Tornadoes found it at the last place they would expect -- in the heart of the Westover gym.
"I told them at the beginning of the fourth quarter that this was our quarter,'' said Monroe coach Cheryl Cheeks, who saw her team come back from a 16-point deficit and upset Westover, 61-56, on Friday night, beating one of the top girls basketball teams in Southwest Georgia. "We've been trying to finish a game all year, and we did it tonight.''
Finish may not be the right word. By the time it was over, even Cheeks didn't know what to say.
"I don't know,'' she said candidly when asked what happened in the final quarter. "I just don't know.''
The comeback started after Westover, led by Dytieshia Dunson (14 points and 10 assists), had built a 45-29 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter. That's about the time the homecoming really took off.
Monroe's Ashley Johnson transferred over from Westover, and was making her debut back in the Boston Garden. She saved her best game of the year for the trip across town, and helped ignite the comeback with 11 third quarter points to finish with a season-high 18.
"It was real crazy,'' Johnson said. "I've got fans and friends on both sides, and there are still a lot of people at Westover upset because I transferred. But it did feel good to win (Friday night).''
Better than good.
"Beating them is like winning a championship,'' said Monroe's LaKeishia Jackson, who took over down the stretch and finished with a 16 points, including nine in the final period. "I knew we had it when we took the lead. We just kept gaining momentum, and confidence.''
Monroe finally knotted the score 51-51 when Destinee Collins made a steal and a free throw with 2:04 left, and Shanequa Young busted a three and then came right back with a drive to help Monroe build the lead to 57-54. Young finished with 18 points and Monroe never looked back.
This victory could mean more than just a rivalry win for Monroe, which was 3-7 before knocking off Westover (9-2), which had only lost to Randolph-Clay, a team the Lady Patriots face tonight on the road.
"This could be the turning point of our season,'' Cheeks said. "It's going to give us more momentum for the rest of the season. It just feels great.''