Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

MONROE DOMINATES SECOND HALF, DOWNS RIVAL DOUGHERTY, 59-51:

ALBANY -- Put a big bright light on Monroe's Tornadoes -- then watch out.

"I love playing here,'' said Monroe sophomore Jabari McGhee, who scored 20 points, grabbed eight rebounds, made three steals and blocked two shots to help Monroe beat Dougherty, 59-51, at the Albany Civic Center, where they not only brought back high school basketball Friday night, but brought it back with some thunder.

"It was a great night,'' said Dougherty County School Superintendent Joshua Murfree after watching two boys and two girls games that drew an estimated crowd of 5,000 as prep hoops returned to the Civic Center for the first time since 2004.

"The crowd was good. People came out to support high school basketball. Evidently, they were hungry for basketball to be back in the Civic Center,'' Dougherty County Director of Athletics Johnny Seabrooks said. "That's good for us.''

The nightcap between city and region rivals Monroe and Dougherty capped off the quadrupleheader, and was as good as advertised as Monroe not only rebounded from back-to-back losses after starting the season 10-0, but came back from a seven-point halftime deficit to race past a Dougherty team that had lost only once all year.

"It's been a long time since we lost two games in a row at Monroe,'' said Tornadoes coach Marquis Davis, whose team fell to Lanier County last week and then was upset by Worth County on Tuesday. "We had a man-to-man talk with them.''

They listened.

Monroe, which has been without Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert, a 6-foot-7 force inside who has a lower back injury, watched Gilbert come off the bench and play 15 strong minutes, including 13 in the second half. He even stayed in the game after hitting the floor after taking a hard foul.

"Gilbert was very courageous,'' Davis said. "A back injury is very serious. He gave us all he had. I really appreciate it. ''

Gilbert said he had to play.

"I'm hurting,'' he said after the game. "But I had to play for my team.''

Gilbert grabbed five rebounds, blocked a couple of shots, scored five points, and his presence was intimidating inside as Monroe took over down the stretch.

The Tornadoes (11-2 overall, 3-1 in Region 1-AAA) trailed 22-17 at halftime and were down 24-17 when Carlos Brown took over the game. Brown hit three long 3s in a row to spark a 15-2 run that put the game in Monroe's hands. He made a total of four 3s in the third quarter and scored 14 of his 17 points then as Monroe took a 40-34 lead into the fourth.

"He was lights out,'' Gilbert said of Brown.

Brown was tired of hearing about the upset loss to Worth on Tuesday.

"After we lost to Worth, people were saying we were now the underdogs in the city,'' Brown said. "This win puts us back where we need to be.''

McGhee's alley-oop dunk with 5:05 left rocked the huge crowd and lifted Monroe to a 48-38 lead. Later, McGhee hit Gilbert with a pass inside and Gilbert dropped in a 52-42 lead and then added a pair of free throws to all but seal it at 54-42 with 3:23 left.

Dougherty (7-2 and 2-2 in Region 1-AAA) struggled in the second half, and Super 6er McArthur Gaines, who has scored 28 points in each of his first three region games, took only four shots in the second half. He scored 11 points in the first half but finished with just 15.

"We focused on him in the second half,'' Davis said. "Gaines is an explosive player.''

Gaines just never got off the launching pad Friday night.

"Kids are going to be kids. That's something we are going to have to work through,'' Dougherty coach Donald Poole said. "We just didn't play in the second half. We were standing around looking.''

Everything else looked good at the Civic Center, where a taste of the good old days came back Friday night -- just like Monroe.

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WESTOVER HANDS STATE POWER T-VILLE BOYS SECOND LOSS OF YEAR:

ALBANY -- Maybe it was all the bright lights in the Albany Civic Center, but the Westover Patriots ignored Thomasville's big front line on Friday night and went inside on the state-ranked Bulldogs to hand them only their second loss of the season.

"That was the game plan, to go (in there) on them,'' said Westover coach Dallis Smith, who watched his kids knock off Thomasville, 55-52, in front of a large crowd at the arena which was once home to all the big area games. "We took the ball to the hole a lot more (Friday night), instead of settling for jump shots.''

This was a different Westover team than the one that fell 60-52 to Thomasville on the road Dec. 3, and it showed everywhere you looked.

Brandon Hudson wasn't a starter back then, but he was Friday and had another big night for Westover, scoring 15 points, including a personal six-point run in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Hudson's surge helped Westover take a 46-40 lead with 4:13 left in the game -- and the Pats never gave it back.

"Brandon really stepped up and played big for us (Friday night),'' Smith said. "And I was really surprised that we shot the ball well (in the first game in the Civic Center). We did OK.''

Super 6er Malcolm Sapp, who had a rough shooting night in Thomasville, made 5 of 7 shots in the second half to finish with 20 points and lead the way.

But you can't run away from Thomasville (10-2), which is ranked No. 3 in the Class AA state poll and can play with any team in Georgia. The Bulldogs have lost only to Herald No. 2 Bainbridge and now Herald No. 3 Westover, and Thomasville also beat both those teams.

But Westover (8-4) held down Thomasville's big men, Willie Clayton and Robert Carter -- who combined to score 44 points in the first game -- to just 27 points Friday. Clayton scored 14 of those, but failed to bring back the Bulldogs back and missed two key free throws late.

Westover still led by six when Joseph Harrell (six points five rebounds) hit a put-back to make it 50-44 with 2:40 left, but Clayton banked in his own rebound and Trey Gossier (13 points) hit an outside shot then made a steal and busted a 3-pointer to make it a 50-49 game with 1:51 left.

Dequan Green (11 points) hit a coast-to-coast drive to give Westover a 52-49 lead before Justin Forbes' 3-pointer knotted things at 52-52 with 1:15 left. Hudson drove and then had a slick assist inside to Sapp for a 54-52 lead with 38 seconds left.

Clayton then missed those two big free throws with 26 seconds left and a put-back with 11.6 seconds remaining. He eventually fouled Harrell while going for the rebound as Harrell hit one of two from the line to finish it at 55-52.

"It's a big win for us,'' Smith said. "Thomasville is a great team.''

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HERALD NO. 1 WESTOVER GIRLS LOSE FIRST GAME OF SEASON:

ALBANY -- It took the move to the Albany Civic Center and the coldest day of shooting of the year for the Westover Lady Patriots' perfect season to come to an end. That combo and a Thomasville team that out-rebounded Westover 2-to-1 -- and might be good enough to reach the Class AA Final Four -- was enough to hand Westover its first loss of the season.

Thomasville used a big push in the final four minutes of the game Friday afternoon to pull away for the 44-36 win at the Civic Center, where the seats were almost as empty as the nets during the 4 p.m. game that tipped off a quadrupleheader that signaled the beginning of bringing high school basketball back to the Civic Center.

The big floor and the spacious backdrop to the baskets might have been too much for both teams as both Westover -- which fell to 10-1 -- and Thomasville struggled to make shots on a day when even simple lay-ups bounced in and out.

Westover missed its first six shots of the game, missed the first seven in the second quarter, missed the first six to start the second half, and missed four of its first five to start the fourth quarter that belonged to Thomasville (10-2).

"That's to be expected playing here. There's going to be an adjustment,'' said Westover coach Lewis Smith of the poor shooting at the Civic Center. "But the difference was their rebounding. They dominated us on the boards and got too many second shots, and they out-ran us up and down the court.''

The Lady Bulldogs put the game away after Westover, which made only 14 of 57 shots from the field, closed to 34-33 on Herald Super 6er DyTiesha Dunson's 3-pointer with 3:26 left in the game. But Westover didn't score again from the floor, missing seven shots in a row. By the time Dunson, who led Westover with 13 points, made two free throws with 1:16 left, it only closed the gap to 40-35.

Lewis pointed to a critical rebound when the game was at 34-33. Carmonique Davis missed two free throws with 2:50 left, but Thomasville's Bree Brown grabbed the rebound and Davis was back at the line with 2:46 left. She hit both and Thomasville built on the 36-33 lead.

"That was the game when she rebounded that missed free throw," Smith said.

Brown finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds and Kierrica Spencer (10) and Davis (9 points) did just enough to help the Lady Bulldogs get the victory as their only losses have been to Herald No. 1 Westover and Herald No. 2 Bainbridge. Brown was out with a back injury when Westover beat Thomasville, 65-52, on Dec. 3 in Thomasville.

"She didn't play in the game we beat them,'' Smith said. "But she made a big difference in their rebounding (in this game). We're a weak rebounding team, and it hurt us.''

Westover (10-1) plays at Lee County tonight. Smith said he didn't know how his team would respond following its first loss.

"You're dealing with high school girls and you never know,'' he said. "They may swell up and play hard, but they could go the other way. We have some problems we need to work out.''