Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- So much for those critics who said Monroe couldn't blow anybody out.

Welcome to Windy City.

"We did it. We did it,'' said Monroe's Robert Arnold, who -- like everyone in this program -- had gotten tired of the critics. "They were talking. They said we couldn't beat Westover, and we did it. They said we couldn't blow anybody out, and we did it.''

They did, indeed.

Perry was the victim of this 79-57 party that took place in the Monroe gym Tuesday night.

Here's the funny part: Monroe actually trailed, 8-0.

"We we'ren't scared or anything when we got down 8-0,'' said Arnold, who led Monroe with 19 points. "It just showed us that we can't relax. We're undefeated and everyone is going to come after us, so we can't relax against anyone.''

Lesson learned.

Maybe this is a good time to remind everyone in Region 1-AAA that Perry lost to Westover by just three points a week ago. Not that anyone is counting (not much, anyway).

Yet, they're counting everything at Monroe these days. And why not? The Tornadoes are now 13-0 and still the Herald's No. 1 ranked team in Southwest Georgia. And they seem to be getting better every night.

It didn't hurt to see the return of Edwin Winslow, who had been ineligible for the first 12 games. He came off the bench and started flying around the court, slapping away balls and diving for others.

"Our defensive intensity is what won this game for us,'' Monroe coach Marquis Davis said. "This is the game we have been waiting on. We have to have this kind of intensity every night. Everyone is coming after us now.''

That won't stop.

Monroe (5-0 in Region 1-AAA) has 11 games left, including nine region games. But once the Tornadoes started running Tuesday, the only thing that slowed them down was the rim at their end of the court, which was ajar three times from monster dunk attempts -- two from Winslow.

"It felt great to be in there,'' said Winslow, who finished with six points. "I've been waiting a long time to have my moment.''

The moment appears to belong to the Tornadoes, who came back from 8-0 to take a 28-22 halftime lead before discovering their best quarter of play this season. Consider this: Last week, Monroe scored just 40 points to beat Dougherty 40-36. They scored 32 points in the third quarter alone Tuesday.

"It's been taking us three quarters to score 32 points in a game,'' Davis said.

Monroe built a 60-38 lead at the end of three and led by as much as 28 points over a Perry team that fell to 8-7.

"That felt amazing,'' said sophomore Rontavious Gilbert, who had seven points, four blocks and six rebounds. "It was like we couldn't do anything wrong in the third quarter.''

Ten different players scored for Monroe: Brandon Blakely and Jabari McGhee both had 10 points and Carlos Brown had a big night. He scored only five points, but had eight rebounds, two blocks and five assists.

It was that kind of night for the Tornadoes.

"It felt great to win like that,'' Arnold said. "We've just got to keep playing like that, keep playing and winning. The only thing left is for us to go 24-0.''

24-0? Now that's blowing out an entire season.

"That's the goal,'' Arnold said.

And if they do go 24-0? Well, that will give them something to talk about ...

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MONROE GIRLS 80, PERRY 42:

Fifty-five.

Go ahead and roll that number around in your head for a moment. That's 55 -- as in 55 turnovers -- not the speed limit.

The last thing Monroe's girls basketball team would pay attention to is a speed limit. They never slow down.

Just ask Perry, which turned the ball over 45 times in the first three quarters Tuesday, including 21 times in the third quarter alone. By that time, this game was over.

And if it wasn't enough for Perry to have a nightmare against Monroe's press, the Panthers picked Tuesday to come to Albany -- the same night that Monroe sophomore Sheniqua Young decided to have the game of her life. Young made eight 3-pointers and finished the night (after three quarters) with 32 points, including 17 in the third when Monroe outscored Perry 34-7.

"I don't know. I was just pumped tonight,'' said Young, who missed her first two shots. "Once I started making those 3s it really helped my confidence.''

Suddenly, Monroe is a power. The Lady Tornadoes won just three games last year and were 3-8 a week ago, but since erasing a 16-point deficit and beating Westover last Friday, Monroe has a three-game winning streak.

"That winning streak feels great,'' Monroe coach Cheryl Cheeks said. "I think that Westover win helped turn us around. It really looks like we are starting to click.''

And Young's breakout night?

"She has never had a game like that before,'' Cheeks said. "We've always wanted her to be a scorer, and she has been building her confidence up. This game will really boost her confidence.''

Monroe saw eight players score points, including Jessica Burks (14 points). LaKeisha Jackson, who usually leads the Lady Tornadoes, rarely shot the ball and scored just four points, but everyone else had a big night as the team forced mistake after mistake.

"We just played great defense tonight,'' said point guard Destinee Collins, who made 10 steals and scored six points, including a behind-the-back drive that had the Monroe crowd on its feet.