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Herald No. 3 Tornadoes slip by Cougars, 62-57

Monroe’s Jabari McGhee, left, puts up a shot over Crisp County’s Marshall Taylor during Tuesday’s win. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

Monroe’s Jabari McGhee, left, puts up a shot over Crisp County’s Marshall Taylor during Tuesday’s win. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

ALBANY — Forget the usual suspects, Monroe can beat you in ways you never dreamed of with a team that is suddenly finding stars from everywhere on the court.

Tuesday’s 62-57 win against Crisp County in the Civic Center might be a benchmark game for the Tornadoes, who turned to their bench to pull this one out.

Hakeem Porter, one of the top offensive linemen in this part of Georgia, came off the bench to give Monroe just what it needed and Darrien Anderson came off the bench to hit two monster shots to shoot new life into Monroe just when the Nadas needed it most.

“Those were two crucial shots,’’ said Monroe coach Marquis Davis, who watched Anderson hit a long two-pointer to end the third quarter and lift Monroe to a 43-39 lead. Then Anderson opened the fourth with a 3 and the Civic Center was on its feet.

So was Monroe, which never trailed again.

The lead switched hands 15 times before Jabari McGhee hit a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left in the third to give Monroe a 41-39 lead, and then Anderson pushed the lead to 46-39.

“I was thinking I need to give my team a spark off the bench and some energy,’’ said Anderson, who finished with six points. “It felt great to hit those shots because it helped us win the game.’’

It was a struggle, but Monroe, which beat Crisp by four points earlier in the season, needed a big game from the bench because McGhee, a Herald Super 6er who leads Monroe in scoring and rebounding, spent almost half the game on the bench in foul trouble.

“Jabari was out, and Hakeem Porter came off the bench and gave us some big minutes, and our bench really gave us a great effort,’’ Davis said. “And Nicholas Plummer hit some big shots for us. We got perimeter scoring. Crisp County is always tough. We knew they would be.’’

Plummer led Monroe with 18 points, and McGhee added 12 points and eight rebounds. Super 6er Rantavious Gilbert had eight points and five blocks, and Porter came through with six points, but all three of his baskets seemed to come at crucial times in the game.

Monroe, ranked No. 3 in The Herald, is now 13-5, but the Tornadoes are 8-0 in the Region 1-AAA race with four games left, and they want to be the top seed for the region tournament.

“This win was big, real big,’’ Plummer said. “They were a tough team, and we needed to beat them to keep our No. 1 spot in the region.

“It was close,’’ said Plummer of the 15 lead changes. “But we played tough enough to close out the game against a very tough team.’’

Monroe ripped off an 8-3 run to grab a 51-42 lead when Plummer hit a drive with 6:07 left, and hung on despite big games from Crisp County’s D.J. Jackson, who scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, and Jontavious Carter, who had five dunks and finished with 16 points.

“This game was big. We want the No. 1 seed,’’ Davis said. “And this is the kind of game that can help us later in the playoffs. No doubt about it, Crisp County is one of the top competitors in the region.’’