Westover’s Josh Moore is fouled by Monroe’s Trentavious Jackson during Friday night’s game at Westover’s Boston Garden. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — Usually in a rivalry game, one coach leaves jubilant while the other tries to figure out what went wrong.
Friday night in a key Region 1-AAAA battle between Herald No. 1 Westover and Monroe, Patriot coach Dallis Smith grumbled about his team’s play in a 54-48 victory at Westover’s Boston Garden.
Then Monroe coach Marquis Davis was upset with his team’s performance despite the fact that the Tornadoes nearly rallied back from a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Welcome to Dougherty County basketball, where a big win isn’t always perceived as big.
Smith said Westover built a big lead late in the third quarter, then quit playing.
“We’re not playing mentally tough and sound right now,” Smith said. “We were up by 20 points, then quit playing. That was about the worst fourth quarter I’ve ever seen us play by far. We turned the ball over and gave it to them like it was Christmas already, then we stopped playing.”
Regardless of whether Smith liked the fourth quarter, it was exciting for Monroe fans and sent the Westover crowd home breathing a collective sigh of relief. The Tornadoes opened the final period on an 8-0 run over the first 2:29, using a three-point play from Keith Hayes to trim Westover’s lead to eight at 47-39.
“One guy penetrates down the lane and nobody steps up and takes the charge,” Smith said. “We didn’t play good defense at all.”
The Patriots (6-2, 3-1 Region 1-AAAA) used two buckets from Michel Green to extend their lead back to double figures at 51-39. Timothy White blocked Deonte Young’s attempt, then White fed the loose ball to Green, who finished off the play with a layup.
However, Monroe didn’t quit, using a 7-0 run over the next 2:40 to make it 51-46. The Tornadoes had a chance to make it closer when Napoleon Harris’ 3-point attempt hit the back of the rim and bounced into the air.
Westover’s Dunavon Robinson sank a pair of free throws to push the Patriots’ lead to 53-46 with 1:22 left, and the Tornadoes couldn’t get any closer.
Davis said his team couldn’t overcome a sluggish second quarter in which the Tornadoes (2-3, 2-3) were outscored 19-4.
“You are not going to win games when you get outscored like that,” Davis said. “There’s no telling how many turnovers we had. In our last three games, turnovers and inexperience have had a lot to do with things. We have to learn from our inexperience.”
A near-capacity crowd watched the two teams trade baskets early before the Patriots ran away in the second quarter.
Robinson led all scorers with 21 points, while Khalil Carson added nine points.
Monroe was led by Harris’ 11 points, with Trentavious Jackson chipping in 10 and Hayes adding nine.
However, it was a game that Davis believed his team came up just short.
“We can’t dig a hole too deep that we can’t come out of,” he said.