Monroe senior Hakeem Porter paced Monroe past Crisp on Friday, 40-39.
CORDELE — There’s nothing like that big Wal-Mart smile.
No, not the one from the door-greeter at the store, the one on Monroe’s Hakeem Porter, a 300-pound offensive lineman who got the nickname because of his big, wide smile.
He was smiling big-time Friday night — and so was Monroe’s boys basketball team after beating Crisp County, 40-39, to stay unbeaten at 6-0 and atop The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll.
Monroe had to come back from a 13-2 first-quarter deficit, but the Tornadoes knotted things at 18-18 at halftime, and then Porter, who came off the gridiron late to join the team, came off the bench to lead the Nadas with 12 points, seven rebounds and some inspiration.
“When I came in we were down by a point, and I think it was just my energy off the bench that got us going,” said Porter, who joined the team two weeks ago. “It seems like I brought some hype into the game, and I think the team got off on the hype. We were playing kind of slow, and we seemed to pick it up when I made those baskets.”
Porter had two key and-one plays down the stretch including one that lifted the Nadas to a 36-32 lead with 2:52 left.
Monroe built the lead to 40-36 on late free throws from Keith Bowens, Jabari McGhee, who finished with six points, and Darian Anderson, who scored seven points on a pair of 3s and a big free throw with 7.4 seconds left to lift Monroe to a 40-36 lead.
Javoris Cooks, who led Crisp with 13 points, hit a 3 with 0.3 seconds left to make it a one-point game. Davion Harvey was right behind Cooks with 12 points for the Cougars.
“It’s the nature of the beast. Our kids get up for Monroe and they get up for us,” Crisp coach Terry Smith said. “It could have gone either way. The difference in the game was (Porter). He‘s a great athlete.’’
Monroe coach Marquis Davis also praised Porter, who had big moments off the bench a year ago.
“He’s a basketball player,’’ Davis said of Porter. “He’s a senior and he did what a senior needs to do. He was the difference tonight.”
Monroe is unbeaten and 5-0 in the Region 1-AAAA race. Crisp is 2-2 in the region and overall.
Monroe has been getting big efforts from a big group.
“That’s the way it is for us this year,’’ Davis said. “We are playing as a team. You don’t know who is going to come up big in the next game. A win is a win, and it’s a region win.’’