Herald Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert was huge for Monroe on Friday against bitter rival Westover, notching 12 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks. The win helped the Nadas avenge an earlier loss to the Pats. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Slam!
Slam, slam, slam!
That’s the message Monroe and Rantavious Gilbert delivered Friday night at Darton College, where Gilbert opened the game with two riveting dunks that seemed to spark Monroe to a 54-47 win against Herald No. 1 Westover.
“I was just tired of hearing it, tired of the criticism,” said Gilbert, who slammed in four dunks in the first half as Monroe ran and slammed its way to a 33-17 halftime lead and then hung on to beat its biggest rival.
Gilbert, a Herald Super 6er who towers over most opponents at 6-foot-7, finished the game with 12 points — 10 of those on dunks — 13 rebounds and seven blocked shots, including two that were pinned against the basket.
But it wasn’t just Gilbert’s two-fisted start.
Monroe took off and got points from everyone, including five first-half 3-pointers from guards Bamba Dioum, and Jonathan Morine and Daniel House, who nailed two 3s each.
“It was great team effort, a team win,’’ said Monroe coach Marquis Davis, whose team took over first place in Region 1-AAA with the win.
Monroe, ranked No. 3 in The Herald, is now 11-3 and unbeaten in the region. Westover, which had won nine of its last 10, including a 61-50 win against Monroe in the semifinals of the U Save It Boys Basketball Tournament, suffered its first region loss and is 10-4 and 4-1. Monroe is 11-3 and 6-0 the region.
“We just came out and were lackadaisical,’’ Westover coach Dallis Smith said. “They came out with a lot of energy. They played harder than we did in the first half. They wanted it more than we did in the first half.’’
It’s true. Monroe looked unbeatable in the first half.
“Our whole team got off to a great start,’’ Davis said. “But we still have to play four quarters. Every team has a run in them, and they made their run in the third quarter.’’
Davis was especially pleased with his guards.
“We’ve been getting our points from the inside and our guards did a good job, and we got points from the perimeter,’’ he said.
They needed them.
Westover made it close, storming back, thanks to Super 6er Dequan Green’s 10-point third quarter that closed the gap to 40-31. The Patriots kept coming, and had the standing-room-only crowd was on edge when T.J. Cromer made a steal and drive that made it 47-43, then M.J. Vangure followed that play by stealing the inbounds pass. He found Cromer under the basket and suddenly it was 47-45 with 1:01 left in the game.
Then Morine made the play of the game, driving the baseline and finishing up an and-one play with 48 seconds left to lift Monroe to a 50-45 lead.
“That was a big play for us,’’ Davis said. “That’s what seniors do.’’
That was enough for Monroe to hold off Westover as the Tornadoes knocked down four free throws in the final seconds.
Plummer and House finished with 10 points each, and Super 6er Jabari McGhee, who had 10 rebounds, added seven points. Morine had six.
“We just dug ourselves into too big of a hole,’’ Smith said. “I was proud of the way we came back in the second half. It shows the kind of character we have.’’
Green finished with 19 points and Cromer scored 17. The two teams could meet again two more times. They’re 1-1 after the first two rounds of the biggest rivalry in the city.
“We came out hyped,’’ Gilbert said. “We were ready to play. It’s a region game — a (big) win in the region.’’