ALBANY -- He said he was "99.9 percent" sure.
Not bad odds -- not bad at all.
Maybe that's why Monroe's Bamba Dioum looked so calm when he dropped in two free throws with 7.7 seconds left Thursday to put the final touches on Monroe's furious 50-47 win against Dougherty in the Region 1-AAA semifinals at a packed house at Westover.
"I felt pretty confident,'' said Dioum, who came off the bench in the second quarter and led Monroe with 14 points. "I work on free throws every morning, so I feel confident at times like this. I was 99.9 percent sure I was going to make them.''
It was Dioum who grabbed a loose rebound with 22 seconds left and scored to give Monroe a 48-47 and then he was there again at the end -- an end that seemed to have a Dougherty victory written all over it.
It sure looked that way when Josh Lewis busted a long 3-pointer with 3:37 left to give Dougherty its biggest lead of the night, 46-42. Monroe was scrabbling for points, and it felt like an upset was in hand for the Trojans, who lost two close games to Monroe during the regular season.
"We just had to dig back and play defense,'' said Monroe coach Marquis Davis, whose team will meet Crisp County in the final tonight after the Cougars stunned No. 1 seed Westover late Thursday, 58-55.
They did. Monroe forced two turnovers down the stretch and held Dougherty to only one point during the final 3:30 of the game -- a free throw by Super 6er McArthur Gaines, who made it 47-46 with 58 seconds left.
Carlos Brown, who had 11 rebounds and nine points, hit a big drive for Monroe with 2:35 left to close to 46-44. Gaines, who led everyone with 18 points, had a chance to lift the Trojans with a drive at the two-minute mark, but Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert blocked the shot and sent the ball the other way. Gilbert grabbed an offensive rebound at the other end and his put-back brought Monroe back at 46-46 with 1:52 left.
Then Gaines hit his free throw and Monroe ran the clock down to give Jabari McGhee, who finished with just six points, a chance to win it. McGhee made a big move inside, but his shot skipped away and bounced right into Dioum's lap.
"I don't know what happened,'' McGhee said. "I went to get the rebound and knocked the ball away, and it went right to Bamba. He made the shot and I said: 'Thank you!' ''
Dioum knew what to do with it.
"I was kind of surprised to get it, but I knew I had to make that shot,'' he said.
Then Gilbert made the play of the night. He has blocked as many as 13 shots in a game, but never a bigger one than with 8.3 seconds left on Thursday when he sent Darrell Anthony's drive the other way -- and sent Monroe to the region final.
"I saw Anthony going to the rack,'' Gilbert said. "I knew I had to stop him. I had kind of a bad game, and I had to step up. It was a clutch moment.''
Gilbert finished with seven points, just five rebounds and three blocks -- including two in the stretch.
"Rantavious had a big block at the end of the game,'' Davis said.
"There are no easy games in the region tournament. Dougherty is a very good basketball team with a lot of athletes.
"It feels great to get away and get to the final.''