ALBANY -- Two steps forward after two steps back.
That's The Herald No. 1 Monroe boys basketball team, which had recently lost two straight games after starting the season 10-0, but rallied late to defeat Albany, 48-44, in a close non-region contest on the road Saturday night.
And you can give most of that credit to starter Carlos Brown, who was clutch down the stretch and inspired his team, despite a 41-40 deficit with 3:16 left in the game.
"The last couple games, Carlos has come through in the second half," Monroe head coach Marquis Davis said of Brown, who was also instrumental late in Friday's 59-51 win against Dougherty at the Albany Civic Center. "Coming off a tough game like (Friday) night, it's hard to do well, but my guys did it."
That they did.
For most of the game, the Indians (5-5) looked like they would win their fifth game in six tries -- they lost to Cook County by a point on Friday -- but Brown hit a 3-pointer with 1:11 left that gave his team a 44-41 lead, then hit two free throws with 19.9 seconds left to ice it.
"We have to tip our hats to them. They're a veteran team," Albany head coach Archie Chatmon said. "They stepped up down the stretch, especially Brown."
The Tornadoes (12-2) never got within five points until the fourth quarter, but Brown hit his clutch shot, then Bamba Dioum followed that up with another long-distance shot the next trip down the floor to put his team up 47-41 with less than a minute to play.
"After those two losses, coach has been telling us we can't lose any more," said Brown, who had 14 points and four rebounds. "So, as a senior, I took it upon myself to get us back in the game, and my team was right behind me."
Jabari McGhee was one of them, as he had a game-high 19 points.
"Carlos shot it and made it," McGhee said bluntly of Brown's clutch shot. "It just gave (the whole team) a bunch of 'go-time' attitude. After he made that big 3, we felt like we had it."
Confidence. That's what it's all about for Monroe this year.
"Momentum is a big factor for us on defense," Davis said. "We do well on defense if (we're on a roll offensively)."
Herald Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert is a main reason the Tornadoes have been dominant on defense this year, but Gilbert has been hobbled by a back problem recently, and only played around 12 minutes Saturday. He was scoreless and only had five rebounds and five blocks, but his mere presence gave his team motivation to win.
"Even though he's hurt, he's doing what he can," McGhee said. "That shows us he really wants to play hard and wants the best for the team."
It's an attitude Davis wants heading into the team's Region 1-AAA showdown with Cairo on Tuesday.
"(Our) region is the toughest region in the state. There are no easy games," Davis said. "We always have to focus on Cairo. Whatever their talent level is (each year), they play hard. It's going to take a full team effort (if we want to beat them)."
As for Albany -- which was led by Kenny Anderson's 17 points and 8 rebounds -- Chatmon said they'll be fine if they keep playing the way they've played recently, but they have to learn to finish.
"We've had that problem lately. (Friday) night we lost by one, so we're still trying to put the pieces together," said Chatmon, whose team faces Region 1-AA foe Berrien on Tuesday. "We have to learn how to (keep a lead)."
MONROE GIRLS 52, ALBANY 29:
The Lady Tornadoes forced 36 turnovers and overcame a rough shooting day by Herald Super 6er Shanequa Young to beat the Squaws on the road.
"Defensively, we played pretty well," said Monroe head coach Cheryl Cheeks, whose team led, 22-12, at halftime. "Offensively, we did OK, but I was more proud of our defense."
Ashley Johnson led Monroe (7-6) with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Young (2-of-10 from the field) only finished with seven points after she dropped 30 in a 51-50 loss to Dougherty on Friday.
"That's what we needed," Cheeks said. "We need other people to step up and play."
Davone Anduze added 10 points, six rebounds and six steals for the Lady Tornadoes, who had 19 turnovers and play Cairo on Tuesday.
"It's a good thing (to get back above .500)," Cheeks said. "We want to stay over it. We have some big region games coming up (though), so it's going to be tough."
Ladaisha Green (11 points, five rebounds) and Briana Williams (nine points, six rebounds, four assists) led Albany (2-8), which plays its second Region 1-AA game of the season against Berrien on Tuesday.