Monroe Super 6er Jabari McGhee drives to the basket on Dougherty's defense Tuesday night at the Civic Center. McGhee and the Herald No. 3 Tornadoes held on against their city rivals for the win, 46-44. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — It’s a mission, simple as that.
Monroe’s Tornadoes have a purpose, and they’re playing like it lately, scrambling, diving and scratching for everything. That was Monroe on the floor, digging for loose balls, and that was Monroe, sky-high, playing above the rim — and that was Monroe doing everything in between Tuesday night at the Civic Center, where the Nadas just keep making the same statement again and again.
Nobody in Region 1-AAA plays like them.
Their mission is to win the regular season and march into the region tournament as the No. 1 seed, and they looked unbeatable early and then hung on late to win a 46-44 thriller win against city rival Dougherty.
They have been unbeatable in the region. That was win No. 10 Tuesday, as in 10-0 and counting down. They still have two games left in the region, including a showdown with their biggest rival, Westover, next Tuesday right back at the Civic Center.
Monroe and Westover have split a pair of games this season, but Monroe won the one that counted a 54-47 region win at Darton on Jan. 13. That’s the game that separates the two powers at the top of the region. Westover is 9-1, behind Monroe’s 10-0.
The Nadas made it look more like 10-and-OH on Tuesday, running and stealing and running some more against Dougherty, which was held scoreless the first six minutes of the game until Alford Brown hit a 3-pointer. By then, Monroe had already forced five turnovers and had built an 8-0 lead.
The Nadas never trailed.
They led, 30-21, at halftime, but Dougherty made a move in the third quarter, and Monroe scored only four points and led just 34-29 after three.
“The beginning to the third quarter was the key to the game,’’ Monroe coach Marquis Davis said. “Dougherty came out with a lot of life after halftime, and we scored only four points.”
Still, mission accomplished — Monroe hung on to win.
“That’s what good teams do,” Davis said. “You have to play four quarters. Every team has a run in them, and Dougherty had a run (in this game). We had a heck of a first half, but they made their run in the third quarter.’’
Dougherty closed it to 34-31 early in the fourth quarter, but Rantavious Gilbert answered with an and-one play and took over, scoring eight of Monroe‘s next 12 points, including two dunks to lift the Tornadoes to a 46-37 lead. That nine-point lead proved to be enough, even after Dougherty made one last charge.
“Gilbert does some good things for us both offensively and defensively,’’ Davis said.
Gilbert, a Herald Super 6er, led Monroe with 15 points and he also had seven blocks and nine rebounds. Fellow Super 6er Jabari McGhee scored nine points, had 13 rebounds and three blocked shots as Monroe blocked 10 shots for the night. Darrell Anthony led Dougherty with 16 points, 12 rebounds and two blocked shot.
It wasn’t enough.
Dougherty (5-12 and 3-7 in the region) climbed back with four free throws after Kendall Hicks was intentionally fouled, and Monroe was hit with a technical foul. Hicks made four in a row, and Anthony made another free throw on the ensuing possession to close to 46-42 with 2:30 left.
Monroe ran the clock down, and Anthony missed a pair of free throws with 1:18 left that would have made it a two-point game. Nick Plummer missed a one-and-one chance with 9.7 seconds left that would have sealed it for Monroe, and Brown hit a jumper with 15 seconds left to make the final, 46-44.
“We play hard and we play good at times, but we need to take it to the next level,’’ Dougherty coach Donald Poole said. “We still need to learn how to take care of the ball.’’
Monroe forced 21 turnovers and ran early, then hung on late. The Nadas have now won four in a row after losing to Colquitt County in overtime and losing to Wilcox, 38-34, during a Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Tournament.
“We had to sit down and talk about some things after those two losses,’’ Davis said. “I think that was the start of our new season.’’
It started right in time for a stretch run by Monroe, which is all about the mission and the top seed.
“That’s what counts,’’ Davis said.” The region and the playoffs … ”
DOUGHERTY GIRLS SURVIVE MONROE:Monroe didn’t dig a hole, it bull-dozed itself a crater against city rival Dougherty on Tuesday afternoon, and the horrendous start cost the Lady Tornadoes, who needed the win to move into a tie for the third seed in the Region 1-AAA race.
The 40-37 win, however, was critical for Dougherty, which is now tied with Monroe at 5-5 for the fourth seed, but still has a chance to move up with two games left in the region race.
“We needed this win very badly,’’ said Dougherty coach Charlene Jackson, whose team lost to Monroe earlier in the season. “But I need the girls to play quality basketball. When you get to this point in the season, you need to put it all together.’’
Jackson, whose team won the Region 1-AAA title last year, knows what it takes in the stretch run, and Dougherty (13-5) can still climb up in the region seeding with two games left.
“We stress being consistent,’’ Jackson said. “In spurts we played well, and they did a better job on defense.’’
You can’t get much better than a shutout, and that’s what Dougherty did to Monroe in the first quarter.
Monroe (13-7) went nine minutes and nine seconds to start the game without scoring a point and never recovered. The Lady Tornadoes, who committed 10 turnovers in the first quarter, didn’t score until Herald Super 6er Sheniqua Young hit a 3-pointer with 6:51 left in the first half.
Monroe finally made a run and closed to 19-15 at halftime, but trailed by as much as 10 points in the third quarter and went to the fourth behind, 32-26, before losing by three when Keshondra Price hit a pair of free throws with 1.3 seconds left to make the final look a little closer than it was. Young finished with a game-high 12 points, and Price scored 11.
Monroe had just leap-frogged Dougherty in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll on Tuesday, moving into the No. 3 spot as Dougherty dropped from No. 2 to No. 4 this week, but Dougherty will move right back up after the win. They two rivals are tied for the fourth spot in the region at the moment, behind Westover (No. 1), Crisp County (No. 2) and Americus-Sumter (No. 3) with two games left.
Dougherty didn’t have a player in double figures, but led the entire game after taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Shawntel Byrd and Tiana Martin led the Lady Trojans with eight points each, and Ra’Keta Shelton and Amber Ward finished with seven pints each.
Ward hit a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to lift Dougherty to a 35-28 lead with 4:22 left. It was Dougherty’s only basket from the field in the fourth. The Lady Trojans went 17-of-29 from the free throw line and did just what it had to do to beat Monroe.
“We’re stressing doing the little things right as we get ready for the stretch run,’’ Jackson said. “We’ve just got to get better.’’
“They won’t look like that when the tournament comes around,’’ Jackson said.
ALBANY HIGH GIRLS 42, BERRIEN 29: This one was easy, just like most of the games in Region 1-AA have been for Albany’s Squaws, who have emerged as one of the best AA teams in Southwest Georgia.
That’s why no one was surprised to see the Squaws run away from Berrien (7-15, 0-9) on Tuesday afternoon at the Civic Center, where Albany never trailed.
Herald Super 6er Chasity Mullins led the way with 17 points. La Daisha Green scored nine points and Kairsha Jackson scored seven for Albany.
The Squaws are now 7-2 in Region 1-AA play with three games left, including a big game Friday at Thomasville and then a bigger game Saturday night back in the Civic Center against Early County, which is 5-4 in the region. Brooks is 8-0 and leading the region race, but still plays Early County on Friday and Fitzgerald next Tuesday before ending the season in what could be a first-place showdown with Albany on Feb. 11 at Brooks.
The Region 1-AA tournament will be hosted by the top-seeded girls team, so everyone in the region — boys and girls — is watching this race.
ALBANY BOYS 75, BERRIEN 29: This one was over almost before the ink dried on the contract to put the game in the Civic Center as Herald No. 1 Albany ripped off a 17-2 lead in the first eight minutes and never looked back.
Albany High fans can appreciate the irony. The Indians are now 17-2 for the season.
How much good the romp did is anyone’s guess because Albany High has to go from its easiest game of the year to the biggest region game of the season right into the fire, because the Indians next travel to Thomasville for a first-place showdown on Friday. Both teams are tied for the lead in the region at 8-1, but Thomasville owns a 37-36 win against Albany earlier this season when the Bulldogs scored five points in the final 38 seconds of the game to steal the game from the Indians.
“The biggest thing about this game is seeing those young kids play,’’ Albany High coach Archie Chatmon said of the lopsided victory against Berrien. “Desmond Newberry had a heck of a game for us. And those kids got to play some with the starters.’’
Berrien (0-19 and 0-9 in Region 1-AA) was simply outmatched from the onset, and Albany used every player on the bench in a game that had a six-minute fourth quarter because of the one-sided score. There was a running clock in the fourth quarter as Albany played 15 kids, and 14 of them scored.
Newberry, a sophomore, led Albany with 15 points. Larry Sanford scored 14, and Herald Super 6er Tim Pierce scored eight points.
Now, comes Thomasville, followed by a rematch with Early County on Saturday night back at the Civic Center. Albany won the first meeting in Blakely.
“I hope we’re ready,’’ Chatmon said. “We need to have another game like we did against Cook (last) Friday and Dougherty on Saturday.’’