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GHSA CLASS AAA STATE TOURNAMENT: Monroe freshman leads Lady Tornadoes in upset in state opener of No. 2 seed Rutland

Cheryl Cheeks' Monroe girls basketball team had an impressive win over No. 1 seed Mary Persons in overtime Friday in the first round of the GHSA Class AAA State Tournament.

Cheryl Cheeks' Monroe girls basketball team had an impressive win over No. 1 seed Mary Persons in overtime Friday in the first round of the GHSA Class AAA State Tournament.

MACON — On a night when Monroe senior sharpshooter Sheniqua Young went 0-for from 3-point range, a freshman and a killer defensive effort lifted the Lady Tornadoes to a playoff win on the road.

Young, a Herald Super 6er, went 0-for-7 from 3, but Monroe got 16 points from freshman KeyKey Price and upended Rutland High, 49-36, in the first round of the GHSA Class AAA girls’ playoffs.

“When (Young) is on, we’re awesome,” Monroe head coach Cheryl Cheeks said. “It’s a good thing KeyKey stepped up and made a couple of threes. She’s capable of doing that every night.”

Monroe (19-8), the No. 3 seed from Region 1-AAA, moves on to round two Tuesday, when it will face Sandy Creek in Atlanta, the No. 1 seed from Region 4-AAA, which held off Cross Creek, 39-37 in overtime, to survive.

Young still managed to score seven second-half points Friday when it mattered most to hold off a Rutland run in the third quarter that cut the Lady Tornadoes’ lead to 32-29. Young finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and five steals, finding other ways to score when her shot from the perimeter was off.

“It didn’t matter,” Young said. “As long as I was getting to the basket, getting the foul called and making free throws, that’s all I was worried about – getting my team involved.”

She did exactly that, while the young freshman scored 10 in the first half and the Lady Tornadoes’ pressure defense ate Rutland alive for most of the night.

“We played together with tight defense,” said Price, who has scored 23 in a game this season.

Rutland (13-13, No. 2 seed from Region 2-AAA) was bigger inside with 6-foot-1 center Jalana Cuyler and forward Zonesha Davis, who led the Lady Hurricanes with 11 points, but Monroe was more aggressive on rebounds and loose balls from the tip.

“Yeah (they were bigger), but they weren’t stronger than us,” Price said.

Monroe forced 31 turnovers on the night, many coming in the final quarter when Rutland managed just five points after cutting a 28-18 halftime deficit to three in the third.

“I knew we would have a problem with this region (1-AAA),” Rutland head coach Johnny Dixon said. “We play a slower style of ball and they were more aggressive than we are.”

Monroe had to play a season of basketball against that region, which went 4-0 in the opening round with Crisp, Westover and No. 4 seed Dougherty all winning.

“We had a tough region this year,” Cheeks said. “I think that all of us understand that once we got out of our region, we’d be OK. We’ve just got to continue to play hard and be disciplined and humble.”

Davone Anduze and Cessiley Colwell each added eight points for the Lady Tornadoes, who didn’t mind being overshadowed by Westover in the regular season and Crisp County’s region title. They’ve now won six of their last seven and are hot at the right time.

“We are humble,” Young said. “We are hungry. As long as we play together, we should go far.”