TIFTON -- Jabari McGhee took a deep breath, let out a long sigh, shook his head just a it and said: "That was a long weekend.''
But a good one.
Maybe the best one for McGhee and Monroe's Tornadoes, who stamped their name all over Southwest Georgia, winning three games in four days and topping off the run with an impressive 62-45 win against Class AAAAA Lowndes on Monday in the Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational.
"We need a rest,'' McGhee said.
Go ahead and take one. If anyone deserved one it's McGhee and Rantavious Gilbert, Monroe's two big men inside who dictate everything that happens once team tread in there.
McGhee scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds (that's right, 17) while Gilbert finished off a three-game swat-a-thon by blocking seven shots against Lowndes. He blocked 20 over the three game sweep, including 10 in a 49-38 win against Colquitt County on Saturday.
Gilbert, who played his first full game after coming back from a back injury in Monroe's big 42-37 rivalry win against Westover on Friday in front of 3,000 at the Albany Civic Center, had a double-double in all three games, and finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds against Lowndes. He even came up with a steal and a couple of pretty assists, including a highlight tape pass McGhee who finished the fast break in a flurry -- just like Monroe finished the long weekend.
"If there is one word for this weekend,'' Monroe coach Marquis Davis said, "it's defense.''
Make that the Monroe's middle name. Or should we just start calling them D-Monroe? No one plays defense like the Tornadoes, who gave up just 120 points in three games this weekend.
Lowndes (11-5) had averaged 72 points over its last four games.
"That's our lowest point total all year,'' said Lowndes assistant coach John Arnold, who was filling in for coach Kingston Clark, who is in the hospital after suffering a blood clot on his knee. "They (Monroe) play good defense and they out-rebounded us, and we didn't shoot the 3 as well as we usually do.''
Monroe, which has been ranked No. 1 in The Herald all season, made a statement, the kind that could carry over into the final month of the regular season.
"We strive on our defense,'' Gilbert said. "Our offense comes off of our defense.''
You could see the frustration Monday at the Tift County gym, where Lowndes, which has a lightning-quick team that forced 11 first half turnovers, watched Monroe pull away in the second half. The Tornadoes led 26-20 at halftime, despite making only 4 of 14 free throws, but they didn't have a turnover in the third quarter and guards Bamba Dioum (14 points) and Ted Hosley (six points) stayed with the Lowndes guards as Monroe slowly began to pull away.
Dioum drove the baseline to open the fourth quarter and then McGhee grabbed his 12th rebound and slammed in a 45-32 lead before Dioum busted a 3-pointer as Monroe opened the fourth with a 7-0 run to grab a 48-32 lead, and it was all but over. The Tornadoes built the lead to 20 and just dominated the game inside.
"They were a shorter team so we had to take advantage of it,'' McGhee said. "At first (I didn't think I would have a big rebounding game) because they are so quick. But then I got into it and I felt like we had to get the rebounds.
"Their fast guards were getting all the long rebounds. They are a real quick team.''
Lowndes point guard Lavanta Jones led the Vikings with 17 points, but scored only six (on two 3s) in the scond half.
Fast teams that hit the 3 have hurt Monroe (15-3) this year, but the Tornadoes did their own running on Monday -- even Gilbert had a couple of fastbreak baskets.
"Our big guys, Jabari and Rantavious came through with big games, and I thought we played good in transition and got a lot of fastbreak baskets. That's what we have been missing. And we played good defense. Our defense has saved us the second half of the season.''
MONROE GIRLS 83, DOOLY COUNTY 47: They call her Duuuuuze, and the nickname is sure to stick for Monroe's Davone Anduze. They will just be saying it a lot more.
That's the way Anduze, a bouncy, energetic point guard, has been playing lately. She just gets better and better, and now that she's driving to the basket more, everyone Monroe plays has to worry about what "The Duuuuuze" is going to do. She scored a career-high 19 points on Monday to help Monroe run past Dooly County in the Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational.
"She was a beast. She was just playing Duuuuuze-Ball,'' said Monroe's Ashley Johnson, who scored 21 points to lead the Lady Tornadoes, along with Super 6er Shanequa Young, who also scored 21.
But it was Anduze, a sophomore, who sparked Monroe's 31-point fourth quarter that put the game out of reach as she scored 10 points in the final eight minutes as Monroe outscored Dooly, 31-9.
The Lady Tornadoes (10-8) return to Region 1-AAA play at 6 p.m. on Friday against Herald No. 2 Americus-Sumter in a key region game.