ALBANY - Just how much of a difference does Rantavious Gilbert make for Monroe High?
How about a 38-point swing in the Tornadoes' home-and-home region series with Worth County?
After the Rams dismantled Monroe, playing without its injured Super 6er, earlier this month by 19 points, the Tornadoes returned the favor Friday with a 19-point win of their own, 70-51.
This time Monroe had Gilbert as he and Jabari McGhee dominated Worth on the boards and pressured the Rams into submission to keep the Herald No. 1 Tornadoes in sole possession of first in the Region 1-AAA race.
"Seeing my team get beat by (19) that game definitely hurt me," Gilbert said of having to watch Worth County's 78-59 win in Sylvester. "I came back and took the game personal. I thought it was my fault (we lost)."
Monroe (17-3, 7-2 Region 1-AAA) apparently has a hard time letting go of a grudge. They flew out to a 22-7 first quarter lead and never looked back, leading 37-22 at the half.
"Anytime you get beat by (19), I really didn't have to say a whole lot," Monroe head coach Marquis Davis said. "All I had to say is 'Worth County,' and they stepped up (Friday). We've referred back to that loss ever since it happened. Not taking anything away from Worth, but that's one loss we shouldn't have gotten."
Gilbert scored a career-high 21 points to go with 12 boards, three steals and two blocks and included several dunks in his scoring barrage.
"Just his presence," Davis said of having Gilbert in the rematch. "We can tell the difference when he's not there. (His improvement) is like night and day from this year to last year."
McGhee, the Tornadoes' sophomore forward, rebounded from his last outing against the Rams and posted 18 points and 18 rebounds in the win.
"When you get beat like that (first game at Worth) you just want some revenge," McGhee said.
Senior Carlos Brown hit three 3s and finished with 15 points to give Monroe an outside presence while Gilbert and McGhee pounded the boards. Worth County's Dee Nether did his usual damage, scoring 17 points (three 3s) in the loss. Phillip Green finished with 10 points for the Rams (10-10, 2-6 Region 1-AAA), who will play host to Cairo High on Tuesday.
The Tornadoes have now won six straight following their last loss to Cairo on Jan. 11. They were able to rebound from the previous Worth County loss with a win against Dougherty and they will need to do it again Tuesday at the Trojans' house to stay atop the region.
"We just need to keep playing hard and finish strong," McGhee said. "(Dougherty is next) and they're trying to get back in it. We just have to take care of them."
Friday was a night to celebrate at Monroe. Aside from wins by the Tornadoes and Lady Tornadoes, Southside Middle School's boys and girls teams, which are made up of future Monroe High stars, were both recognized for winning the city championship.
MONROE GIRLS 72, WORTH 7:
Sheniqua Young led a host of double-digit scorers for Monroe with 21 points, followed by Ashley Johnson with 12 and Davone Anduze and Destinee Collins with 10 apiece.
Monroe improved to 13-8 overall and 6-3 in the region.
Monroe will travel to Dougherty on Tuesday.