LEFT: Monroe big man Hakeem Porter, right, drives to the bucket on Dougherty’s Montavious Jones during Friday’s first semifinal game of the U Save It Pharmacy Boys Basketball Tournament. Monroe won, 52-38, to set up the season’s second meeting against bitter city rival Westover tonight at the Civic Center. RIGHT: Westover and Herald Super 6er T.J. Cromer soars above the Statesboro defense Friday night during the Patriots’ semifinal game. Westover won, 60-58. (Photos by firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — This time the drought came a little later in the game.
But it did come.
And once again, Monroe stopped Dougherty cold to stay unbeaten and keep a date with rival Westover. That’s what the Tornadoes’ 52-38 win against city rival Dougherty on Friday in the semifinals of U Save It Pharmacy Boys Basketball Tournament meant for Monroe, which will now meet Westover at 7 p.m. today in the tournament title game at the Civic Center.
Monroe (9-0) is ranked No. 1 in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll, while Westover is ranked No. 2. The two rivals played last Friday at Monroe, where the Tornadoes won, 70-63. Almost everyone in Albany wanted to see the two powers meet in tonight’s title game.
Well, wish granted.
Dougherty fans, however, weren’t part of that group. In the season opener at the Civic Center between the Tornadoes and the Trojans, Monroe jumped out to a 28-0 lead against Dougherty.
Not this time.
Dougherty showed up ready for the upset. It took a handful of seconds for the Trojans to get on the board, but Shunwaski Wheeler hit an outside shot in the first minute of the game and then followed up with a 3-pointer to get Dougherty started. Wheeler hit another three and scored eight of Dougherty’s 15 first-quarter points.
Monroe, meanwhile, needed a huge effort from Tim White, who scored seven points and grabbed two rebounds, and Jabari McGhee, who had four rebounds, three points and an assist in the first period to hold off the Trojans, 17-15, at the end of one.
Then came the tornado.
“Every team has a run,’’ said McGhee, a Herald Super 6er who led Monroe with 14 points and 10 rebounds on Friday. “The season goes on, and they got better. But so did we. We knew they would be better. They had their run in the first quarter, and then we had to take it away from them. We had to pick up our defense. Our defense won the game.”
That’s an understatement.
The Tornadoes, who never trailed, took control when their defense simply shut down the Trojans, who scored just one basket in the second quarter and didn’t score again from the floor until Shaquille Wheeler hit a 3 at the buzzer to end the third. Dougherty went 2-for-20 from the field in the second and third quarters, and trailed, 28-19, at halftime and 41-22 after three.
After the drought, it was all but over.
“I knew they were going to come at us. I knew they wanted to get back at us after we beat them the first time,” said White, who scored 13 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots. “But I told my team we couldn’t let them do that.’’
Hakeem Porter came off the bench and — along with McGhee and White — combined for 31 points and 25 rebounds. Porter gave the Tornadoes a big lift.
“That’s a good night,” Monroe coach Marquis Davis said of his Big 3 inside. “Tim White got us going in the first quarter, and he and Jabari McGhee and Hakeem Porter all played well. We had a run at the end of the second quarter, and that gave us momentum going into the second half.
“Our defense played well (after the first quarter). We went from a zone to man-to-man to try to speed the game up.”
It sped the game up and slowed Dougherty down as Monroe built a 22-point lead in the third quarter.
Dougherty made a run in the fourth, thanks again to Shunwaski Wheeler, who led Dougherty (4-4) with 16 points. He scored six points during a 12-3 run by the Trojans that closed the gap to 47-34, but Monroe wouldn’t be denied and finished strong.
Now Monroe is set for what could be another classic showdown tonight vs. Westover.
“It is what it is,’’ Davis said of the hype surrounding the rematch.
McGhee then added: “It doesn’t matter. To me, it’s just another game.”
Westover boys hold on to set up finals rematch vs. Monroe
ALBANY — Statesboro tried everything it could do to spoil the showdown, but Westover just kept hanging on, and after a furious and frenetic ending, the Patriots survived, 60-58, in the semifinals of the U Save It Pharmacy Boys Basketball Tournament on Friday night to make it to the finals tonight against their bitter rival Monroe.
“That’s what everybody wanted,” said Westover coach Dallis Smith, whose team meets Monroe at 7 p.m. today in the Civic Center for the tournament title, bragging rights — and a whole lot more.
Monroe is ranked No. 1 in The Herald’s Fab 5 poll, and Westover is No. 2. The two teams just had a classic showdown last Friday at Monroe, where the Tornadoes won, and just about everyone in Albany wanted to see Westover and Monroe meet for the title.
And here they are.
Monroe cruised past Dougherty in the first semifinal Friday, while Westover, which led by as much as 15 points in the fourth quarter, just made it.
The Patriots never trailed, but they had to hang on at the end.
Herald Super 6ers T.J. Cromer and Kel Miller both said they wanted another chance at Monroe, and they hit the floor like they meant it Friday, combining for 17 points in the first quarter. Cromer hit three treys and had 11 of Westover’s 21 first-quarter points, and Miller dropped in six points as Westover jumped out to an 18-9 lead and went to the second quarter with a 21-13 lead.
But Statesboro (9-2) came back to close the gap, 27-22, by halftime as Alex Simmons led the Blue Devils with eight first-half points.
Cromer and Miller opened the second half with the play of the night — an alley-oop pass from Cromer to Miller, who slammed in a statement for a 29-22 lead that set the tone for the remainder of the game.
Cromer and Kyle Baker each handed out two assists each (and all four were beauties) inside in the third as Westover ripped off a 12-4 run to take a 46-32 lead into the fourth. C.J. Davis and Kahlil Carson combined for 12 points in the paint in the third, scoring six each.
They built the lead to 15 points (54-39) when Donovan Robinson hit a 3 with five minutes left, and then the doors came off. Westover turned the ball over five times in its next seven trips, and Statesboro starting firing -- and dropping everything.
Zaquazian Smith scored 14 of his 19 points in the final minutes, hitting three treys, including one with 15 seconds left to close the gap to 60-58. Cromer missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw with four seconds left, but Statesboro, which outscored Westover 19-6 over the final five minutes, missed a 3 at the buzzer.
“We just got too relaxed,’’ Smith said. “Nobody was moving, and we started turning the ball over and we weren’t blocking out. We played great until the last five minutes. You can’t do that against a team like Statesboro.”
Now Smith’s team must rebound from a tough, emotional and physical game and face Monroe.
“It’s going to be tough,” Smith said. “We‘ve had two tough games back-to-back in this tournament. We‘re exhausted.”
But they’ll be ready. Cromer finished with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Miller led the scoring with 17 points. Davis added 12 points.