Albany High boys basketball coach Archie Chatmon’s Indians are off to an 10-1 start and are enjoying their best season in years, but they face easily their biggest test thus far tonight when they host defending Region 1-AA champion Thomasville at Darton College. (Herald file photo)
ALBANY — Could there be a bigger doubleheader, a better bang for your buck?
Tonight at Darton College area basketball fans will get a chance to see four great high school basketball games, including two monster boys showdowns in what should be a packed house and an electric atmosphere.
Not only do the Albany High boys meet Thomasville at 7:30 in a critical Region 1-AA game, but Monroe and Westover face off for the second time this year in the biggest rivalry in the Good Life City.
“It’s always a big game when we play them. It’s a great rivalry,’’ said Westover boys coach Dallis Smith, whose team is ranked No. 1 in The Herald after winning nine of its last 10 games, including a huge 61-50 win against Monroe in the semifinals of the U Save It Boys Basketball Tournament.
Want To Go?
Today’s prep basketball schedule at Darton.
4:30 p.m.: Thomasville girls vs. Albany High.
6 P.M.: Monroe girls vs. Westover
7:30 P.M.: Thomasville boys vs. Albany High.
9 P.M.: Monroe girls vs. Westover.
ADMISSION: $8 general admission for students and adults.
This time there will be plenty of seats.
The last time they played, more than 200 people had to be turned away at the Albany High gym, where it was elbow-to-elbow and standing-room only.
That much-anticipated showdown ended with a bit of controversy when Westover was awarded two technical fouls with 2:41 left after a mild altercation on the floor between two players. Monroe was hit with a tech for the argument on the floor, and then was hit with another technical foul because — after Westover had called time out — the Monroe players left the bench to meet coach Marquis Davis for the timeout. Davis argued that his team should have not been penalized, but to no avail.
Davis didn’t want to talk about the situation after the game, but tonight’s rematch should give everyone plenty to talk about.
Monroe had been the No. 1 team in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll, but dropped after losing to Westover, which climbed to No. 1 in the poll after beating new — and short-lived — No. 1 Albany High the next night for the U Save It title.
There will be plenty at stake again tonight.
Both Monroe and Westover are unbeaten in Region 1-AAA, and Monroe is looking to grab the No. 1 seed in the region, where the Tornadoes hope to repeat as Region 1-AAA champs.
The 9 p.m. game should be the most heated, fueled by the energy of the rivalry and the first region game between the two powerhouse teams, but the Albany High-Thomasville game might be bigger because of the packed logjam in Region 1-AA.
It’s a feast for hoops fans.
“It’s great for the fans to have Albany High and Thomasville and then have Westover and Monroe play,’’ Albany High coach Archie Chatmon said. “But I don’t care about Monroe and Westover. I have to worry about Thomasville. We have to beat Thomasville.’’
Chatmon has a point.
His team was ranked No. 9 in the Class AA state poll last week — the new poll is due out today, and the Indians (10-1) could move up — and No. 2 by The Herald, but more importantly AHS is unbeaten in Region 1-AA and tied at the top of the standings with Herald No. 4 and No. 10 state-ranked Early County, which is 12-1 and unbeaten in 1-AA. Thomasville, which has won the region the last three years, lost last week at Early County — a loss which knocked Thomasville out of the state’s Top 10 poll.
“Thomasville isn’t planning on losing any more games,’’ Chatmon said. “They’re coming in here knowing they have to win. This game is huge. Thomasville is one of those games that if (the coaches) have to help our kids get up for it, we’re already sunk,’’ Chatmon said.
Albany High will be looking up at Thomasville all night.
“They’re bigger than Monroe,’’ said Chatmon of Monroe’s 6-foot-7 and 6-6 front line of Herald Super 6ers Jabari McGhee and Rantavious Gilbert. “To beat them we will have to play a similar game as the one we played against Monroe (in a 53-40 win) and take good shots and shoot a high percentage. We have to keep them off the glass. Their strength is rebounding. (Bulldogs star center) Willie Clayton is just a monster on the boards.’’
The Indians have a rough road over the next four days.
They play Thomasville tonight and then travel to Early County on Tuesday for another huge 1-AA game. Chatmon would like to go into Early County still unbeaten in region play.
“This is a must-win for us against Thomasville,’’ Chatmon said. “When you look at our region with Cook, Thomasville and Early County, you look on paper and you say, ‘I need to get a split with them.’ You have to beat those teams at your place because they are so tough to beat at their gyms. We have to win this one against Thomasville. This is our home game against them. It’s a must-win for us.’’
Westover is treating it the same way, even though it’s already proven it can take down Monroe’s Twin Tornadoes.
“When you look at the region, we’re both unbeaten, and from that standpoint it’s a big game. Whoever wins will come out No. 1 in the region as of now. And then there’s the rivalry ...” Smith said. “All that stuff that happened before — us beating them in the Christmas tournament — doesn’t mean anything now. This game means a lot, and we know (because we beat them) they’re going to come to play. It’s going to be a packed gym. By the time the second girls game is going on it will probably be sold out.’’
The Albany girls will open the four-game set against defending Region 1-AA champ Thomasville at 4:30 p.m., followed by a key Region 1-AAA game between rivals Westover and Monroe. Westover’s Lady Patriots are not only unbeaten in Region 1-AAA, but perfect for the season at 13-0 and ranked No. 1 in The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll and No. 4 in the Class AAA state poll.
Monroe, however, has won four of its last five games, and is always a threat to beat Westover because of the intense rivalry, and the Lady Tornadoes would love to hand the Lady Pats their first loss.
Still, Westover is perfect and coming off a big 40-36 win at state-ranked Crisp County, where the Lady Patriots avenged last year’s loss in the Elite 8.
“We want to win every game,’’ said Westover’s DyTiesha Dunson, a Herald Super 6er who has scored 41 points over her last two games. “We know Monroe is a big game. It’s a rivalry and a region game. We know how important it is.’’