Brandon Hudson and Herald No. 4 Westover moved to 3-2 after Friday’s revenge win against Thomasville, but they still trail city rival and current No. 1 Monroe. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Is it really Tornado season?
Sure feels like it around Monroe, where the Nadas start the season as The Herald’s No. 1 team. They’ve been here before. Just two years ago Monroe spent a lot of time as the No. 1 ranked Class AAA team in the state.
This year’s team might even be better.
Monroe’s big front of Super 6ers Rantavious Gilbert (6-foot-8) and Jabari McGhee (6-7) return from a 23-6 team with big expectations.
“We just have to do it,’’ McGhee said.
It’s a long season and the beauty of The Herald Fab 5 polls (both football and basketball) is they change all the time. Monroe hasn’t even played a game yet. Two of Monroe’s first three games were postponed because of the football playoffs, and Valdosta canceled its game last week at Monroe.
The Tornadoes open tonight at home against Americus-Sumter, travel to Crisp County for a monster game on Friday, and then travel to Terrell County on Saturday as they begin the season with a brutal first week of games.
Monroe edged Crisp County, 48-44, in the Region 1-AAA title game last year, and the Monroe-Terrell County game is always a showcase game. It takes on a little more flavor this season because Monroe coach Marquis Davis’ brother, Kervin Davis, is now an assistant coach at Terrell County, where the Greenwave are coming off a big win against rival Randolph-Clay.
Albany High, which returns all five starters from last year’s Class AA Sweet 16 team, added Tyrone Culbreth, who returned to AHS after spending a year at Deerfield-Windsor, and open at No. 2.
The Indians beat No. 4 Westover, 72-61, on Nov. 22, but face the Patriots again on Saturday night at Albany State in one of the best early games of the year.
Bainbridge opens at No. 3, but the Bearcats face Thomasville, ranked No. 4 in the coaches Class AA state poll, at home Saturday in a classic rivalry showdown.
Westover opens at No. 4 after avenging an opening-night loss to Thomasville last Friday night in Albany, where the Patriots looked like a different team in a 54-48 win.
Early County is 4-0 and averaging 93.5 points a game, and looks like the surprise team of the season so far. The Bobcats start the season at No. 5.
Westover’s Lady Patriots start the season where they finished last year — at No. 1. They have raced out to a 7-0 start and play three games this week, including a huge showdown on Friday night against No. 2 Dougherty at Albany State.
Dougherty, which beat Westover to win the Region 1-AAA title last year, is already 3-0 and plays Cairo tonight before meeting rival Westover on Friday.
Monroe starts the season at No. 3 in the girls poll and plays No. 4 Americus-Sumter tonight at Monroe in the Region 1-AAA opener that could go down to the buzzer. Then Monroe faces one of its biggest tests of the season Friday when the Lady Tornadoes travel to play Crisp County and 6-foot-3 star Nasheema Oliver, who led Crisp to the Final Four last year as a freshman.
MONDAY'S ROUNDUP: Sherwood girls beat Byne; SGA boys, girls split with Randolph So.
ALBANY — Sherwood’s girls basketball team picked up its second win of the season Monday with a 50-33 victory against Byne Christian.
Madison Walker poured in 20 points and pulled down seven rebounds for the Lady Eagles (2-5), while Kaitlyn Gilliam added eight. Heather Hornell was Byne’s high scorer with 12 points.
Sherwood returns to action today, along with the boys team, at LaGrange Academy.
SGA BOYS, GIRLS SPLIT WITH RANDOLPH SOUTHERN.: SGA’s boys beat Randolph, 53-20, behind 13 points from McKinley Chambless and 12 from Billy Grimsley, while Aakash Patel was Randolph’s top scorer with seven. SGA improve to 2-1.
In the girls game, Randolph beat SGA, 56-46, thanks to 15 points from Brooke Taylor. SGA was led by Beth Burkett (17 points) and Taylor Stewart (12).
SGA next plays Friday at Westwood, while Randolph visits Abbeville (Ala.) on Thursday.
LATE SATURDAY --- PELHAM GIRLS 76, CALHOUN COUNTY 36: The Herald No. 5 Lady Hornets moved to 3-1 after beating Calhoun County late Saturday thanks to 25 points Brianna Freeman, 13 from Octavia Kierce and 10 from Super 6er Shay Reece. Brandi Buie led Calhoun with 13 points as the Lady Cougars return to action today at Seminole County (3-3), while Pelham hosts Randolph-Clay.