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GHSA STATE TOURNAMENT PREVIEW/NOTEBOOK: Super 6er Gilbert out for Monroe’s state opener

Monroe Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert is likely out for the Tornadoes' first-round GHSA Class AAA State Tournament game tonight with a bum ankle. (Herald file photo)

Monroe Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert is likely out for the Tornadoes' first-round GHSA Class AAA State Tournament game tonight with a bum ankle. (Herald file photo)

ALBANY — Rantavious Gilbert’s right foot sits in a boot, waiting to be set free — waiting for a chance to lead Monroe in the GHSA Class AAA state tournament.

“It’s terrible, just terrible not being able to help my team,’’ said Herald Super 6er Gilbert, a 6-foot-7 shot-blocking machine who is at the center of Monroe’s defense. He has been out since the final game of the regular season when he injured his ankle.

The Tornadoes had to play in the Region 1-AAA tournament without him last week, and after winning the regular-season title with an 11-1 record, Monroe finished second to Crisp County, a team the Tornadoes had beaten twice in the regular season.

Southwest Georgia’s GHSA/GISA state tournament schedules

GHSA STATE PLAYOFFS

GIRLS

TODAY

Region 2-AAA No. 3 Westside, Macon at Region 1-AAA No. 2 WESTOVER, 6 p.m

Region 2-A No. 4 Echols County at Region 1-A No. 1 MITCHELL COUNTY, 6 p.m

Region 1-AAA No. 4 DOUGHERTY at Region 2-AAA No.1 Mary Persons, 6 p.m.

Region 1-AA No. 3 ALBANY HIGH at Region 2-AA No. 2 Jeff Davis, 6 p.m.

Region 1-A No. 3 RANDOLPH-CLAY at Region 2-A No. 2 Wilcox County, 6 p.m.

Region 2-AAA No. 4 Howard at Region 1-AAA No. 1 CRISP COUNTY, 6 p.m.

Region 2-A No. 3 Turner County at Region 1-A No. 2 PELHAM, 7 p.m.

Region 1-AAAA No. 3 LEE COUNTY at Region 2-AAAA, No. 2 Statesboro, 7 p.m.

Region 1-AAAA No. 4 BAINBRIDGE at Region 2-AAAA No. 1 Richmond Hill, 7 p.m.

Region 1-AAA No. 3 MONROE at Region 2-AAA No. 2 Rutland, 7 p.m.

Region 1-A No. 4 SEMINOLE COUNTY at Region 2-A No. 1 Charlton County,5:30 p.m.

BOYS

TODAY

Region 1-A, No. 3 RANDOLPH-CLAY at Region 2-A No. 2 Wilcox County, 7:30 p.m.

Region 2-AAA Veterans at Region 1-AAA No. 1 CRISP COUNTY, 7:30 p.m.

SATURDAY

Region 1-AA No. 3 EARLY COUNTY at Region 2-AA No. 2 Long County 4 p.m.

Region 2-AAA No. 3 Howard at Region 1-AAA No. 2 MONROE, 5 p.m.

Region 1-AAA No. 3 WESTOVER at Region 2-AAA No. 2 Westside, Macon, 5 p.m.

Region 1-AAA No. 4 DOUGHERTY at Region 2-AAA No.1 Central, Macon, 5 p.m

Region 2-AA No. 4 Appling County at Region 1-AA No.1 ALBANY HIGH, 6 p.m.

Region 2-AAAA, No. 3 Effingham County at Region 1-AAAA No. 2 BAINBRIDGE, 6 p.m.

Region 2-A No. 4 Atkinson County at Region 1-A No. 1 MITCHELL COUNTY 6 p.m.

Region 2-A No. 3 Turner County at Region 1-A No. 2 CALHOUN COUNTY, 7 p.m.

Region 1-A No. 4 PELHAM at Region 2-A No. 1 Lanier County, 7 p.m.

GISA

GIRLS AT FINAL FOUR

TODAY AT GEORGIA COLLEGE & STATE

1 p.m.

CRISP ACADEMY vs. Westminster Christian

2:30 p.m.

WESTWOOD VS. GRACE CHRISTIAN

4 p.m.

TERRELL ACADEMY vs. Briarwood

FINALS ON SATURDAY

Class A title game, Noon

Class AA title game, 3:20 p.m.

“We would like to have him. He’s a vital part of what we do,’’ Monroe coach Marquis Davis said.

Davis’ team is at home against Howard at 5 p.m. on Saturday in the opening round of the state tournament.

Gilbert averages about seven blocked shots a game and has been more aggressive on the offensive end of the court, where he averaged a double-double down the stretch before the injury. But it’s not the blocked shots that make him such a force, it’s the countless shots he alters with his presence. Teams simply don’t go inside on Monroe because Gilbert is there, and if they do they must alter their shots so dramatically just to get the ball over him.

Simply put: It’s a whole different game when Gilbert is standing between the opponent and the basket.

But it doesn’t appear as if he will be ready for Saturday’s game against Howard, which has it’s own 6-7 force in the middle of the lineup.

Gilbert said Thursday of the injury: “The swelling is going down, and hopefully I can play Saturday, but I don’t know.’’

If Monroe gets past Howard (17-11), the Tornadoes (17-7) wouldn’t play their second-round game until next Wednesday against the winner of the Josey-Henry County game. Josey, the No. 1 seed from Region 3, is ranked No. 8 in the Class AAA state poll and is the favorite.

“If I can’t play Saturday, definitely I will play on Wednesday,’’ Gilbert said. “I know I can be back on Wednesday, without a doubt.’’

But Monroe has to get past Howard. A year ago, Monroe won the Region 1-AAA title and then lost in the first-round game.

“We have players who were in that game and remember that game,’’ Davis said. “We talked about that, and that’s part of our motivation going into this game.

“We just got to play. We’ve been working hard all week. The regular season is over. The region tournament is over. Everybody is 0-0. It comes down to who wants to play on Saturday.’’

Davis has tweaked his lineup, inserting a third guard — junior Jontavious Wallace — at the point guard and moving Daniel House over to a 3 guard spot. Bamba Dioum will play the 2 guard.

“Jontavious plays the point pretty well, and Bamba will play the 1 and the 2,’’ Davis said. “House is versatile.’’

It’s a formula that needs to work, but Monroe still has other weapons. Herald Super 6er Jabari McGhee has averaged a double-double for the last two seasons and is a force on both ends of the court, and Nick Plummer can be deadly at times from 3-point range.

The Tornadoes lost to only four teams all season, and they beat two of the teams that beat them — Westover and Colquitt County.

“We just need to make some shots,’’ Davis said. “In the games we lost, we just didn’t make shots.’’

While Monroe tries to win with a revamped lineup, the Westover Lady Patriots will try to bounce back after losing to their biggest nemesis, Crisp County, in the Region 1-AAA title game last week.

LADIES NIGHT: The GHSA girls state tournament starts tonight, while the boys teams play their first round Saturday, but two of the biggest games in Southwest Georgia will be Monroe’s Tornadoes against Howard on Saturday and Westover’s Lady Patriots against Westside, Macon at 6 p.m. today at Westover.

The Lady Patriots had a season-long 23-game winning streak snapped in the final week of the regular season, and then lost to Crisp County, a team they had beaten twice, in the region title game. That loss has been costly.

Not only does Westover have to face Westside, which was the top team in Region 2-AAA all season, but if the Lady Patriots win, they will likely have to travel in the second round to face Washington County, which is not only the defending state champ and the No. 1-ranked team in the Class AAA state poll, but it’s riding a 49-game winning streak.

Westover, which spent the second half of the season ranked No. 2 in the state poll — right behind Washington — could have avoided the state champ with a win last week. Had the Lady Patriots won the Region 1-AAA title, they wouldn’t have had to face Washington County until the state title game.

“We would have liked to have been on the other side of the bracket,’’ Westover coach Lewis Smith said. “We would have like to have played Washington on a neutral court. But it is what it is.’’

His team is still rebounding from the region title loss.

“We were a little rattled,’’ he said. “Now we don’t get to be on the side of the bracket we wanted to be on. We just have to get ready to play Westside.

“They were the No. 1 seed in their region, but their best player had the flu last week and they ended up being the No. 3 seed out of the region. We played them last year in the second round of the tournament, so we’re familiar with them and they are familiar with us. It’s some of the same people, but it’s two different teams.’’

Smith said he has already put the region final loss against Crisp behind him and didn’t talk to his players about it all week.

“Once the zero hits the clock, I try to leave it alone,’’ Smith said. “We didn’t talk about it. Let’s move forward and look at the future. You just have to let it go and move on.’’

Mitchell County’s girls are at home tonight against Echols County and the Mitchell boys meet Atkinson County at home Saturday. Mitchell wanted to play a doubleheader, but Echols County refused to.

Randolph-Clay’s girls and boys, however, will play a doubleheader tonight at Wilcox County, beginning at 6 p.m., and Crisp County, which won both Region 1-AAA titles, will host a doubleheader tonight against the No. 4 seeds from Region 2-AAA. The girls meet Howard at 6 p.m., while the boys play Veterans at 7:30 p.m.

Those are the only doubleheaders tonight.

Pelham’s girls (23-4), ranked No. 4 in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll and No. 10 in the Class A state poll, will host Turner County at 7 p.m., but other than Westover and Mitchell, everyone else is on the road.

Monroe’s Lady Tornadoes, the Region 1-AAA No. 3 seed, travels to face Region 2-AAA Rutland at 7 p.m., and Dougherty’s Lady Trojans, the Region 1-AAA No. 4 seed, travels to play Region 2-AAA No. 1 Mary Persons at 6 p.m.

Albany High’s Squaws, the Region 1-AA No. 3 seed, are on the road against Region 2-AA No. 2 seed Jeff Davis at 6 p.m.

Lee County, the Region 1-AAAA No. 3 seed, travels to 2-AAAA No. 2 Statesboro at 7 p.m., and Bainbridge, the Region 1-AAAA fourth seed, is at Region 2-AAAA top seed Richmond Hills at 7 p.m.

Seminole County, the fourth seed from Region 1-A, faces Charlton County, the top seed from Region 2-A at 5:30 p.m.

SUPER SATURDAY FOR THE BOYS: Albany High, Monroe, Mitchell, Bainbridge and Calhoun County will all be at home Saturday night as the first round of the boys tournament begins for everyone not involved in a doubleheader.

Albany, ranked No. 1 in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll for most of the season and ranked No. 3 in the Class AA state poll, is at home for the first two rounds if the Indians get past Appling County on Saturday.

The Indians (23-2) are the top seed from Region 1-AA and take a 13-game winning streak into Saturday’s 6 p.m. game against Region 2-AA fourth seed Appling.

“They are fast and they can shoot,’’ Albany High coach Archie Chatmon of Appling said. “They remind me of a combination of Mitchell County and Early County.’’

Bainbridge, which had its 18-game winning streak snapped in the Region 1-AAAA final, losing to Northside, Warner Robins by two points, have a tough first round draw. The Bearcats (22-5) play Effingham County (26-2), which had its 14-game winning streak snapped in the semifinals of the Region 2-AAAA tournament last week and had to settle for the third seed.

Calhoun County, which lost to Mitchell in the Region 1-A final last week, will be at home at 7 p.m. against Turner County (24-5), which is ranked No. 8 in the state poll after bringing back almost everyone from a team that fell to Terrell County in the Elite 8 last year.

Westover’s Patriots, who finished third in the Region 1-AAA tournament, will be on the road Saturday against Region 2-A No. 2 seed Westside, Macon at 5 p.m., and Dougherty’s Trojans will also be in Macon. They play top-seeded Central Macon at 5 p.m.

Early County is facing a 4 1/2-hour bus trip to face Long County at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the Class AA playoffs. Early County, the Herald’s No. 2-ranked team, finished third in the incredibly tough Region 1-AA tournament last week and has a long way to go face the No. 3 seed.

Pelham, the fourth-seed from Region 1-A, has to face Lanier County, the top-seed from the tough Region 2-A tournament and the fifth-ranked team in the Class A state poll. The Hornets tip off at 7 p.m.

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