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Monroe builds big lead, tops Lovejoy

Jamarcus Nunally scores game-high 21 points as Tornadoes go 2-1 in U-Save-It Classic

Monroe’s David Hamilton pulls up for a shot in the middle of four Lovejoy defenders Monday during the Tornadoes’ 44-28 victory in the final day of the U-Save-It Classic. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

Monroe’s David Hamilton pulls up for a shot in the middle of four Lovejoy defenders Monday during the Tornadoes’ 44-28 victory in the final day of the U-Save-It Classic. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

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Monroe guard Jamarcus Nunally dribbles down the court Monday against Lovejoy. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

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Monroe’s Deonte Young shoots a jumper with Lovejoy’s Lucas Atkins defending Monday in the final day of the U-Save-It Classic. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)

ALBANY — According to Monroe senior guard Jamarcus Nunally, a shooter is supposed to be confident — and accurate.

Nunally was so precise from long range Monday afternoon, he might have been better suited at throwing darts at a dartboard.

The senior scored 21 points, including burying six 3-point attempts, as Monroe took a big 44-28 victory over Lovejoy in the U-Save-It Christmas Tournament at Albany High School.

“I was wide open (several times) and I just took my time, set my feet and shot the ball,” Nunally said. “I felt confident.”

Lovejoy was the bigger, flashier team. Monroe played steady, doing the small things correctly and scored perhaps its biggest victory on the court this season.

“I thought the main thing (Monday) was I saw teamwork,” Monroe coach Marquis Davis said. “I thought our guard play was pretty good — Jamarcus Nunally had a big game, and David Hamilton showed some senior leadership at the point.”

The Tornadoes (5-4) never trailed against Lovejoy, and Davis hopes his team can build from the win. Monroe is off until Jan. 3 when it visits Terrell County. The Tornadoes don’t return to Region 1-AAAA play until Jan. 10 when they are at first-place and Herald No. 1 Worth County.

Monroe gradually pulled away in the second quarter when it didn’t allow the Wildcats to convert a basket from the field, holding Lovejoy to 0-for-11 from the floor.

The Tornadoes took advantage, shooting 40 percent (4-for-10), then Nunally helped them build a double-figure lead with 2:12 left in the second quarter when he drilled his third 3-point basket of the first half from the left wing.

Monroe’s lead never dipped into the single digits again.

Part of the Tornadoes’ success stemmed from their defense inside and solid perimeter shooting. Monroe finished the game shooting 40 percent (16-of-40). Nunally was the only player in double figures. West finished with seven, while a trio of players finished with four points each.

Statistically, it wasn’t the kind of victory that showed domination. However, it was one Davis was happy with, especially after the Tornadoes blew a big lead and fell to Manchester on Saturday night in the Classic.

After Monroe built it largest lead of the game at 40-20 on a basket from Freddrick West, the Tornadoes weren’t about to let things slip away. Lovejoy’s Darrius Bridges sank a basket underneath to trim the deficit to 15, but the Wildcats couldn’t get any closer.

“We knew they were big and talented,” Davis said of Lovejoy. “Like I told our guys in the shoot-around (Monday) morning, we all had to rebound as a team. Anytime you rebound, you eliminate their offensive rebounds.”