Monroe Super 6er Jabari McGhee scored 12 points an 15 rebounds in Friday's win against Crisp County.
CORDELE -- When Crisp County's Taylor Walls hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 4:36 left in Friday night's game, Monroe coach Marquis Davis didn't lose his cool.
And neither did his Herald No. 1 Tornadoes.
"It was a big shot, but we had to calm down and call our plays and make sure we ran them correctly," said Herald Super 6er Jabari McGhee, who led Monroe with 12 points and 15 rebounds.
Three minutes after that 3-pointer, McGhee grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back in. And the Tornadoes' defense did the rest.
Monroe held the host Cougars scoreless in the final 4 -1/2 minutes to escape with a 43-39 victory in a battle of Region 1-AAA powerhouses. Monroe (2-0, 2-0 Region 1-AAA) looked rusty in its season-opening win Tuesday against Americus-Sumter, and Friday's game was another during which the Tornadoes had to gut out a victory.
"The guys played tough in the end," Davis said. "This type of game is a film game. I can chop it up and make sure our guys learn from the mistakes they made (Friday night)."
Monroe jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but that was the Tornadoes' largest against the Cougars, who never led and dropped to 2-1 overall and 0-1 in region play. The game was close throughout, but the only time it was tied was when Walls sank that trey from the corner. It was a shot that not only knotted up the score, but it also gave Crisp all the momentum.
With the score tied, both teams slowed down the pace. At one point, Crisp even held the ball near midcourt as the clock continued to trickle down.
"We wanted to get a little rest right there and buy them a few seconds to get their wind back to finish the game," Crisp coach Terry Smith said. "We wanted to get a good shot there, so we wanted to run our half-court offense well."
Instead, Monroe buckled down on defense and came up with stop after stop in the final minutes. After McGhee hit the go-ahead bucket with just over a minute left, Monroe 6-foot-8 center Runtavious Gilbert blocked his fifth shot of the game to give the ball back to the Tornadoes. On the other end, Gilbert, a Herald Super 6er who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, made it a two-possession game with his only field goal of the second half.
The Tornadoes made the key plays down the stretch -- something they have been making a habit of against Crisp lately. The last time the teams met on the court was in the region title game last year at Westover, which Monroe won, 48-44. The Tornadoes also edged the Cougars in both regular season games last year -- a 70-65 double-overtime win near the beginning of the season and a 53-42 victory in January.
"They make a block here. They make a play there. We don't make a stop. That's what it boiled down to," Smith said. "It's about the same thing that happened last year the first time we played. It's just two great teams competing. Whenever it is us and Monroe, it's a great game."
Walls led the Cougars with 13 points, shooting 5-for-8 from the field and 3-for-5 from behind the arc. Jontavious Carter, who recently signed to play football at Miami as a wide receiver, also got in double figures with 11 points, but it was evident the Cougars sorely missed starting senior guard D.J. Jackson, who was benched for disciplinary reasons.
Monroe's star players -- McGhee and Gilbert -- didn't have either of their best offensive nights, but the duo made it nearly impossible for Crisp to get a shot off in the paint. It's a combination that Davis expects to only get better as the season goes on.
"They are starting to jell together," Davis said. "I would really hate to see the night when they are both rolling. Getting both of them in double figures is really going to help."
Gilbert scored six points in the opening quarter, helping the Tornadoes get off to their fast start, and it was McGhee who turned it on in the final period when he scored six points.
"We have been playing together for about three years now, and we are getting to know each other better," McGhee said. "He knows how I play. I know how he plays."
Gilbert agreed that they are playing well together.
"We are meshing good," Gilbert said. "We have a good relationship, and we work hard."
But as soon as Friday night's buzzer sounded, Monroe quickly had to shift its focus to tonight's game against Terrell County (3-1, 3-1 Region 1-AAA). The Greenwave, who lost just three games last season but two of them were to Monroe, have won three in a row this season.
"We gotta go home and get some rest and come back ready to go (today)," McGhee said.
CRISP COUNTY GIRLS 66, MONROE 46: Monroe girls' basketball coach Cheryl Cheeks knows it's tough to win when you turn the ball over 25 times.
It's even tougher when you are playing against Crisp County and 6-foot-3 sophomore center Nasheema Oliver.
Oliver and the Lady Cougars capitalized off of Herald No. 3 Monroe's miscues and improved to 2-1 overall and 1-0 in region play. After opening the season with wins against Randolph-Clay and Maclay, Fla., the Lady Tornadoes are now 2-2 overall and 0-2 in the region.
"No I wasn't pleased," Cheeks said when she found out her team committed 25 turnovers. "We didn't do very well in transition, and that's where we got beat."
The Lady Cougars, who outrebounded Monroe, 33-25, controlled the game from the opening tip, largely because of the inside play of Oliver, and 5-foot-8 forwards Keidra Green and Kayla Green. Oliver had 14 points and nine rebounds, Kayla Green had 18 points and six rebounds and Keidra Green had 14 points and seven rebounds. Adrianna Dennard, a 5-9 center, also had 10 points and six rebounds.
"We dominated the boards," Crisp coach Molly Speir said. "We certainly outrebounded them, and we did a better job of not turning the ball over. We played good basketball (Friday night)."
Crisp started the game on a 16-2 run, as Monroe had trouble finding the basket in the opening minutes. The Lady Tornadoes were 1-for-6 from the field and 0-for-3 from 3-point range with five turnovers in the first six minutes. Crisp led 16-4 at the end of the first quarter and 31-9 at halftime.
In the second half, Monroe's Chelsea Cox found her shooting touch. The senior, who was 10-for-16 from the field and 2-for-4 from the line in the second half, scored 21 of her season-high 23 points in the final two quarters. The only thing keeping her from scoring more were her fouls, which kept her on the bench for much of the first half.
"She has been pretty consistent as far as scoring," Cheeks said. "Her problem is she gets in foul trouble, so we have to sit her down."
Also for Monroe, Herald Super 6er Sheniqua Young had 10 points and six rebounds.