SYLVESTER -- Tuesday saw two teams going in different directions.
Worth County is finding its stride after a midseason swoon while Herald No. 1 Monroe appears to have hit a speed bump after a 10-0 start. Worth blindsided the Tornadoes and never let off their throat en route to a 78-59 win, handing Monroe its second consecutive loss and first region defeat of the season.
"We've been working hard and (Tuesday) it showed," Rams' head coach Arthur Davis said.
The last time Worth County (9-4, 1-1 Region 1-AAA) was at home, the Rams walked off the court with a demoralizing loss to Berrien High and nobody in black and yellow was happy.
Then came "The Talk," -- Davis' come-to-Jesus speech in the locker room -- after the loss, which apparently got the Rams back on track. They won three games at a holiday tournament at Jenkins County and then shocked everyone Tuesday with a huge region win against state No. 6 Monroe, which fell to Class A ranked Lanier County on Dec. 30 for its first loss in the Bulldogs' holiday tournament.
"We had a little heart-to-heart in the locker room (after the Berrien loss)," Davis said. "Ever since then we've been all on the same page and working hard. It all came together (against Monroe). We played like Worth County can play."
While Worth's Dee Nether and Tim Gaint couldn't miss from long range, Monroe (10-2, 2-1 Region 1-AAA) struggled from the floor all night and wasn't its dominant self in the paint, partly due to the absence of injured Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert.
"The last two games, our effort was not good at all," Tornadoes' head coach Marquis Davis said. "I don't know if we feel we're that much better than everybody, but in this region it's tough every night. You can't come to Worth County expecting them to just give you a win."
Nether, Gaint and Trey Frager weren't in the giving mood Tuesday, other than the 'L' they handed Monroe in the loss column. Nether and Gaint combined to hit eight threes and Frager muscled his way inside to 18 points and six boards. Neether finished with a game-high 24 points and Gaint was red hot from behind the arc, hitting five treys, to finish with 21.
"We're playing as a team now," Gaint said. "We're starting to do the little things right. We came out ready to play."
Worth led 16-12 at the end of one quarter and then blew the game open at the break when Nether buried a three at the halftime buzzer from just across half court for a 35-24 Rams' lead.
Gaint did the same at the end of the third quarter to bump the lead to 50-33 and then Worth scored 28 points in the fourth quarter against a Monroe defense that allowed Statesboro just 22 points in a game at the U-Save-It Classic.
Missing Gilbert and senior guard Alvin Butler to injuries likely had a good deal to do with the loss, but Marquis Davis said he felt it shouldn't have mattered.
"We have enough ball players to win any game we need to win," he said. "It's just the effort."
Worth County wasn't full strength either, playing without big man Johntavious Rockwell, who is serving a two-game disciplinary suspension.
Monroe's Jabari McGhee's 17-point performance was the lone bright spot for the Tornadoes, which had no other players finish in double figures. McGhee added seven boards and four blocks. Ted Hosley and Carlos Brown each scored eight points.
Worth travels to Cairo on Friday to try increasing its current four-game win streak. Things don't get any easier for Monroe, which plays Dougherty Friday at 8:30 p.m. at the Civic Center in a Region 1-AAA showdown. Gilbert (back) and Butler (concussion) are both questionable for that game.
MONROE GIRLS 75, WORTH COUNTY 22:
Worth had a tough enough time stopping Monroe's Ashley Johnson in the first half. But when Shanequa Young exploded for 16 points in the third quarter alone, it was all over.
Monroe (6-6, 2-1 Region 1-AAA) led 40-17 at halftime and then shut out Worth (0-10, 0-2 Region 1-AAA) in the third quarter and scored 31 points, over half of which came from Young and her four 3s, to roll to its second region win.
Young finished with 19 points with five 3s, while Johnson posted a 14-point line with nine boards and five steals. Chelsea Cox added 10 points, while Davone Anduze scored nine to go with five steals.