After missing Monroe's first game against Worth County -- a stunning loss in Sylvester --- Herald Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert scored 21 points in the rematch Friday night, which ended in a 70-51 Tornadoes win.
ALBANY -- For a quarter and a half, Monroe High ran into an obstacle it couldn't move.
The obstacle? Cairo High's 6-foot-8 center Da'Keidres Wade.
The Herald No. 1 Tornadoes, however, found a weakness and exploited it: They got Wade into foul trouble and overcame a putrid first quarter to down the Syrupmakers, 64-51, and maintain first place in Region 1-AAA with one region game remaining.
Wade clashed with Monroe's own 6-foot-8 center, Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert, and won the early rounds by scoring eight points and pulling down eight rebounds before he picked up his third foul with three minutes left in the first half.
"For (Wade) to get in foul trouble early helped us out because we had a slow first quarter," said Monroe head coach Marquis Davis, whose team trailed 10-5 after one quarter. "We know that he's their primary low-post defender and the guys that come behind him are not as tall."
When Wade left with foul trouble, Cairo led 20-12, but the lead was short-lived. The Tornadoes (20-3, 9-2 Region 1-AAA) went on a 14-0 run to close out the second quarter and never trailed again.
Gilbert scored 11 points and had four blocks but managed just two rebounds against Wade, although he enjoyed the rematch after Cairo beat Monroe, 45-42, on Jan. 11.
"Naw, (Wade) didn't slow me down any," Gilbert said. "I like playing against the big boy. He keeps me on my game."
Wade fouled out of the game with 2:27 left and Monroe leading 51-44. He finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Monroe sophomore forward Jabari McGhee came off the bench to score a game-high 19 points to go along with five rebounds, a steal and a block.
"He just doesn't know how good he can be," Davis said of McGhee. "Right now he's playing very well."
Davis also credited junior guard Darrell Hines with his defense off the bench against Cairo's Terrell Bryant, who hurt the Tornadoes with his perimeter shooting in the first meeting. Hines also had a huge steal and assist on an outlet pass that led to a monster dunk by McGhee to end the third quarter.
Cairo (10-10, 5-6 Region 1-AAA) also got 16 points from Trenton Madison. The Syrupmakers are battling Crisp County and Dougherty for the third and fourth seeds entering the region tournament in two weeks. Cairo finishes region play Friday at home against Crisp County.
Monroe, which also got eight points from Bamba Dioum, plays a big rivalry game today at Terrell County before finishing the regular season Tuesday against Westover.
"It's the next one, so it's the biggest one," Gilbert said of Monroe-Westover II.
That's coachspeak, but in this case, Gilbert is right. Westover and Monroe are tied at 9-2 in region play, and Tuesday's game will decide the regular season champion, which will also host the region tournament.
"It's a big advantage," Gilbert said of needing to win the region and getting home-court advantage. "We love playing at home. We know our rim, so it's a big game."
As for facing Class A No. 5 Terrell County today in a non-region rematch which the Tornadoes won earlier this year, it's a rivalry game, but not the most important one this time of year.
"It's Terrell," Davis said. "We both wear the same colors and it's fun for the fans, but right now we're focusing on those region games."
CAIRO GIRLS 52, MONROE 40:
Monroe went scoreless for almost seven minutes in the first half, including going 0-for-9 from 3, and dug a 20-10 hole before things got even worse in the third quarter.
Cairo (7-13, 4-7 Region 1-AAA) built a 39-19 lead in the third quarter before the Lady Tornadoes finally came alive and cut it to 41-32 on Ashley Johnson's three with 4:47 to play.
By then it was too little, too late. Monroe (13-10, 6-5 Region 1-AAA) finished 6-for-21 from 3 and had no players in double figures. Super 6er Sheniqua Young was held to seven points and went 1-for-8 from behind the arc, although she added nine boards in the loss.
Chelsea Cox led Monroe with nine points, while Devone Anduze and Johnson finished with seven.
Cairo was led by Kenya Reese's 15 points and 12 rebounds. LaNeyshia Barber had 13 points and Alex Tise added 12 for the Syrupmaids.