Westover boys basketball coach Dallis Smith had to be all smiles after Monday's win against previously unbeaten Monroe during the semifinals of the U Save It Boys Basketball Tournament.
ALBANY — It’s No. 1 against No. 2 tonight at the Albany Civic Center, where Albany High meets Westover in the championship game of the U Save It Boys Basketball Tournament.
Albany moved to No. 1 in The Herald’s Fab 5 poll after Westover, which was No. 3, knocked off old No. 1 Monroe in a heated semifinal game that the Patriots pulled out, 61-50, in front of a packed house at Albany High, where more than 200 fans were turned away after the standing-room-only crowd squeezed into the gym.
Albany High stayed perfect (6-0) with a 59-40 win against city rival Dougherty in Monday’s 7 p.m. semifinal to set the date with the Patriots, a team Albany has already beaten twice.
But the Patriots seem to never look as good as they do when they face their bitter rival Monroe.
And for the third year in a row Westover knocked Monroe out of the No. 1 spot in the Herald Fab 5 poll with a huge upset.
“After an emotional game like this, I just hope we have a little energy left (for tonight’s title game against Albany High),’’ Westover coach Dallis Smith said.
The game was delayed twice, once for repairs to the basket and again with 2:41 left in the game when it took officials several minutes to explain that Monroe had been charged with two technical fouls. Westover took advantage and turned a 50-47 lead into a 54-47 lead and then got the ball.
T.J. Cromer, who had scored just two points in the first half, made all four free throws and turned a tight game into a Westover celebration.
“Free throws win games,’’ Smith said. “T.J. didn’t have a real good first half, but he stepped up and made those free throws. That was big.’’
Once Westover had the lead, the Patriots just buried the game at the free throw line, hitting 9-of-12 free throws in the final 2:41 to run away with an 11-point win.
Herald Super 6er Dequan Green, who missed part of the previous game and all of last weeks game against Albany High because of undisclosed reasons, came off the bench Monday to help lift the Patriots (7-3).
Green hit a big 3 to start the second quarter and followed that shot with a long jumper to score his first points of the night, and finished with 15 points, nailing 6-of-8 shots, including 3 treys to lead Westover.
Cromer also scored 15.
“I was really glad to see him come back and have a game like that,’’ Smith said of Green. “He was big for us.’’
Westover hung on despite an incredible night by Herald Super 6er Jabari McGhee, who did everything for Monroe. He finished with 26 points, 19 rebounds, two steals and three assists, but it wasn’t enough. Fellow Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert had six points, nine rebounds and three blocks for Monroe as McGhee and Gilbert combined to grab 28 rebounds.
Monroe had its moments and led early in the game, but the Tornadoes had trouble hanging onto the ball as Westover forced 21 turnovers.
Monroe was still leading late in the third when Brandon Hudson finished the quarter with an and-one play to lift Westover to a 41-39 lead. Kel Miller opened the fourth with a drive to give Westover a 43-39 lead — and the Patriots never trailed again.
Monroe now plays Dougherty at 5:30 p.m. today in the third-place game.
ALBANY HIGH BEATS DOUGHERTY — AGAIN: There’s an old saying about “if the right one don’t get you, the left one will,” and they can make bumper stickers at Albany High with that knockout punch saying.
Super 6er Tim Pierce, who scored 30 points in Albany’s opening game of the U Save It, was held to just one point in the first half, before finishing with 15 against Dougherty, but Larry Sanford carried the Indians with an inspirational 20-point night that included a personal 9-0 run that put the game in Albany’s hands in the third quarter.
The Indians were trailing, 24-20, when Sanford ripped off nine unanswered points to spark a 22-4 run in the final 4:44 minutes of the third that all but put the game away.
“He was awesome,’’ said Albany High coach Archie Chatmon of Sanford. “That’s what we’ve got to do. They did a good job on Tim, and Larry did what he is supposed to do. He took over.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody that can stop both of those guys,’’ Chatmon added.
They haven’t yet, and now Albany High climbs to No. 1 in the Herald Fab 5 Poll with a chance to win the U Save It tournament title tonight.
“You know it’s going to be a good game (against Westover),’’ Chatmon said. “That’s what this tournament is all about — it’s about giving the fans great games.’’
It could be another classic tonight.