Westover’s Brandon Hudson, left, goes strong to the basket and by the defense of Monroe big man Rantavious Gilbert during Tuesday’s Patriots win, 51-37, at Darton. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Monroe couldn’t buy a basket — couldn’t rent one or even lease one. It was that cold around the basket for Tornadoes, who scored only four points in the second quarter and then went frigid from the field in the fourth, going almost seven minutes without any points from the floor.
And it happened against the team Monroe wants to beat the most — Westover, the cross-town city rival that spoiled The Herald’s No. 2 Tornadoes’ perfect Region 1-AAA season with a 51-37 win at Darton on Tuesday night.
“We sure didn’t have a good shooting night,’’ said Monroe coach Marquis Davis, whose team raced out to an 11-0 record in the region to capture the top seed. They just couldn’t nail down their final game in the region on a night when the lid on the basket was nailed shut.
Even after the four-point second quarter, Monroe trailed only 20-15 at the half and kept it close when Herald Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert rammed in a dunk to end the third quarter. Gilbert scored seven of Monroe’s 12 third-quarter points and his dunk closed the gap to 33-27.
Then the frost blanketed the Monroe basket. The Tornadoes didn’t score a point in the fourth until Daniel House hit a free throw with 2:12 left in the game and didn’t score from the field until Nick Plummer found the bottom of the net with 1:18 left.
By then it was over — as in Westover.
“Sometimes that happens, and you just can’t make a shot,’’ said Westover coach Dallis Smith, whose team can nail down the No. 2 seed with a win in their regular-season finale against Americus-Sumter on Friday. The Patriots (16-8) are 9-2 in the 1-AAA with losses to Monroe and Crisp County in the region.
“We needed this win,’’ Smith said. “We’re trying to get that second spot, and it’s always good to beat a good team like Monroe.’’
Westover has beaten Monroe twice, including a 61-50 win in the U Save It Boys Basketball Tournament in December. Monroe then came back and beat Westover, 61-50, at Darton last month and took control of the region.
But Tuesday belonged to Westover, which will play host to the Region 1-AAA tournament, thanks to the Lady Patriots, who won the girls top seed and rights to host both the boys and girls tournaments.
“We came out and brought a lot of energy,’’ Smith said. “That was the difference.’’
Herald Super 6er Dequan Green got off to a fast start, scoring 10 of his 12 points in the first half to spark Westover.
“It was good to see,’’ Smith said. “He’s been in a little bit of a slump, so we brought him off the bench and he had a real good game.’’
Green said he just concentrated on taking good shots.
“It feels good to beat them,’’ he said. “We played as a team, and that’s why we won. We got the W together.’’
Then T.J. Cromer took over in the second half. After going scoreless in the first half, Cromer had a personal 10-point run in the third quarter that lifted Westover to a 32-23 lead before Monroe closed out the quarter at 33-27.
“When I wasn’t scoring, I just kept my head in the game and wasn’t worried about scoring,’’ said Cromer, who finished with a game-high 13 points. “It was a good game. We played as a family.’’
And while Cromer couldn’t miss, Monroe (17-6) simply couldn’t hit a basket down the stretch as Westover built the lead to 16 points in the fourth.
“We were taking too many outside shots, too many 3s,’’ Davis said. “Our defense wasn’t bad. We just couldn’t make any shots. And Westover played like they wanted it a little more.”
Plummer led Monroe with 12 points and Gilbert finished with seven.
Herald Super 6er Jabari McGhee scored seven points and had 12 rebounds.
The two teams could meet again in the Region 1-AAA tournament next week at Westover, but Cromer felt as if Tuesday’s win said a lot about the region.
“This was a statement game,’’ he said. “This was us making a statement to show everybody we’re the team in the region.’’