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The one that counts

Westover Super 6er Kel Miller, right, drives past Monroe's Hakeem Porter during Friday's fourth meeting between the two rivals. After Monroe won the first three meetings in the regular season, the Patriots broke through and finally won, 67-65. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

Westover Super 6er Kel Miller, right, drives past Monroe's Hakeem Porter during Friday's fourth meeting between the two rivals. After Monroe won the first three meetings in the regular season, the Patriots broke through and finally won, 67-65. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

ALBANY — It’s that time of year -- the time when nothing counts but right now.

Just ask Westover’s high-flying Patriots, who soared past their biggest rivals in the biggest game of the season Friday night, beating Herald No. 1 Monroe, 67-65, to win the Region 1-AAAA title in a packed Monroe gym, where Westover’s T.J. Cromer might as well call it his home away from home.

Cromer scored 50 points in two nights in the belly of the Tornado, including 27 on Friday night to lift Westover past Monroe — which had beaten the Patriots three times during the regular season — and into next week's playoffs as the No. 1 seed. That means the Patriots will have the chance to play their first three playoff games in the Boston Garden.

"Revenge is the sweetest joy,'' said Cromer, a Herald Super 6er who leaped to the heavens at the end of the game and danced and hugged his teammates as they celebrated on the Monroe floor. "Those three losses didn't matter. We had to get this one.''

Maybe it's all the Willie Boston tradition, or maybe it’s just the deep, rich blood that runs through the veins of the best basketball rivalry in Southwest Georgia, but when Westover and Monroe play, it’s always special.

This was especially significant for Westover.

"When the horn sounded I just sat down. I just sat down and let it soak in. It was such a good feeling because of all the stuff we had to go through to get here,'' said Westover coach Dallis Smith, who watched Monroe guard Darrien Anderson's 3-pointer hit the front of the rim and skip away in the final seconds to end the game.

This one meant even more to the kids from Westover, who had lost to Monroe three times and had been hearing the critics from both sides of town.

"We heard the naysayers,'' Smith said. "There were critics. The kids heard from them this year. Westover people get a little spoiled because we win every year. And this means a lot because all year we've fighting to get better. We've been up and down.

"I'm proud of the kids because of the effort they have put in the last three or four weeks. We've been playing our best basketball, and this is the time of year you want to start playing your best.''

Monroe owned the regular season, but Westover owned the title game,

Monroe (21-5) became to first team in the history of The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll to go wire to wire as the No. 1 team, thanks -- in part --- to the Tornadoes' dominance against Westover, which started the season ranked No. 2 in the poll and finished at No. 2.

The Nadas, who went 14-0 in the region, beat Westover twice in the region and once for the U Save It Tournament title at Christmas and had clearly been the top team in Southwest Georgia.

But the fourth game belonged to the Patriots (20-5), who have lost to only two teams all season — Monroe and nationally-ranked Class AAAAAA Tift County, the No. 1 team in Georgia. But Westover would rather beat its biggest rival more than anyone, and it showed Friday.

"Westover wanted it a little more than we did this time,'' Monroe coach Marquis Davis said. "They wanted it, and their guard play was a little better — Cromer was the difference. He was the difference in the game.''

Cromer said all the Patriots stepped up to win the title.

"The difference in the game was we had more heart,'' Cromer said. "Everyone was against us, even our own blood — even the ones at our school. People in our school were against us because we had lost to them three times.''

Westover seemed to take all those negatives and turn them into a giant chip on its shoulder, which came flying off early. Westover led for almost the entire game and took a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter only to watch Monroe storm back with a 20-2 run that lifted the Tornadoes to 59-55 lead with 3:40 left.

Herald Super 6er Jabari McGhee, who averaged 28 points a game in Monroe's first three wins against the Patriots, started the second half with a signature dunk and just took over, driving relentlessly to keep Monroe in the game.

McGhee scored 17 of his 27 points in the second half, including nine during the 20-2 run that included a rare 3-pointer from the 6-foot-7 power forward. His 3-pointer closed the gap to 55-49, and Cortez Banks, who came off the bench, came through with an and-one play to make it a 55-52 game before Keith Bowens hit a 3 to knot things at 55-55. McGhee would then hit a 12-footer and come right back with a drive in traffic to make it 59-55 to complete a 12-0 run.

Westover shook off the uppercut and Cromer and Kel Miller, another Super 6er, combined to hit five free throws in a row to lift Westover back to a 60-59 lead. McGhee answered with a dramatic drive in traffic, and when Westover missed at the other end, McGhee had a coast-to-coast drive to give Monroe a 63-60 edge. But Miller, who finished with 13 points, hit a long 3 to knot it at 63 with 2:36 left.

Both teams took some time off the clock until there was 1:12 left. That's when Kahil Carson, a power forward who had come off the bench, launched a 3 from deep in the left corner.

"When he shot the 3, I said, 'Oh no! ... Good!' " said Smith, who didn't want that shot with the game on the line.

"It looked good,'' said Carson, who finished the game with those lone three points. "That's all I know. It was good!''

Carson's trey gave Westover a 66-63 lead, but Anderson, who finished with 15 points, made a pair of free throws to close to 66-65 with 47.6 seconds left in the game. Westover turned the ball over via a 10-second violation to give Monroe a chance to win it with a final shot, but Smith lobbied that 10 seconds had not ticked off and that it also takes a second to put the ball in bounds.

The referees checked with the official scorer and overruled their own call, giving the ball back to Westover with 47.2 seconds left. Freshman Mike Green missed a free throw but made his second one with 21 seconds left to give the Patriots a 67-65 lead.

"After I missed the first free throw, T.J. and the other guys came up to me and told me to just relax and I made the second one,'' Green said.

Monroe called time out with 14.6 seconds left, but Anderson's shot hit the front of the rim in the final seconds and the ball skipped away — along with the game. Davis said later he didn't want a 3-pointer.

"We had six seconds (when he shot the ball),'' Davis said. "You have to get something going to the basket.''

Davis gave Westover credit for playing a game with a lot of intensity, and said the difference at the end of the night was Monroe's inability to match Westover and falling behind by 14 after three quarters.

"We waited too long to play,'' he said. "That's the bottom line.''

Comments

AuntieDee 1 year, 2 months ago

It was a great game. The refs were very professional and called a fair game. WHS just out-played Monroe. I guess it was true when someone said its hard to be a team 4 in a row. Good luck next week Nadas. I'm still with you.

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lostone 1 year, 2 months ago

There's nothing sweeter than beating Monroe on their own court!! Once again Westover gets the win that counts. Pat 4 Lyfe.....

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AuntieDee 1 year, 2 months ago

All of the games count. But WHS one the big one. Monroe is not down and out. We are still in it. Both Monroe and WHS have some talented teams ahead.

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hotdog 1 year, 2 months ago

Monroe...the king of insignificant wins...lol.....now lets see how far u go....probably got to play Martisse Troup And N.Clayton.....sure the former Monroe grad wants to get some of u....and I think he will....n.clayton 67 Monroe 60 first round exit....as usual

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AuntieDee 1 year, 2 months ago

And just how far will WHS go?

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hotdog 1 year, 2 months ago

Further than MHS...in the state guard play is the difference...if u have athletic bigs to go along with that u will give MHS problems......period.....and u may have a better chance since you are playing DUTCHTOWN....Troup is not a friend....I just know he went to Monroe and would have wanted to play MHS bad....good luck

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AuntieDee 1 year, 2 months ago

I know about the guard talent in North Georgia and the difference in their level of play. Monroe CAN play their game. They've played some of those teams before. They just need to come out ready and be consistent. WHS shouldn't have a problem with North Clayton because their big man is out with an injury. Lucky for them. Otherwise, they would probably be out in the 1st round. Anyway, lets not count our chickens before they hatch. This is the same Westover that Monroe whipped 3 times in a row. Playing against the guards you speak so highly of from north Georgia will not be a cakewalk for WHS. I wish the Pats good luck.

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hotdog 1 year, 2 months ago

Not speaking highly of WHS guards...they are just better than MHS guards.....and their coaching is better

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hotdog 1 year, 1 month ago

I don't think so....Monroe guards don't handle pressure well....McGhee is going to have to help with ball handling too.....making adjustments on the fly is a coaching deficiency Monroe has as well

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AuntieDee 1 year, 2 months ago

North Clayton and your friend Martisse just lost big time to Dutchtown High!

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AuntieDee 1 year, 2 months ago

North Clayton and your friend Martisse just lost big time to Dutchtown High!

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mrcvsjr 1 year, 2 months ago

What a great game at the Ponderosa. I'm not the one into I told you so, but hey I told ya'll so. Been saying all year that Monroe is the more talented, but this is a yearly thing. Every year come February and playoff time, Monroe just seems to get unnnerved. I said it everytime you all beat us this year and you all took to the comment section. After Monroe lost against Terrell, I said uh oh it is February, you know what that means in Nada land. Great game for both teams though, and good luck to all 4 teams from Region 1, we will all need it this year.

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Teejay 1 year, 2 months ago

Great game Nadas! Monroe had a wonderful year and I cant take that away from you guys! WE HAVE TO PLAY HARDER TO GET THE ULTIMATE TITLE! CONGRATS to WHS!

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 2 months ago

Happens every time!!!! Cant win the BIG GAME!!!

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dominiquedamac 1 year, 2 months ago

Monroe won the region tournament championship last year.

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PatAlumni 1 year, 2 months ago

No Crisp Won Last Year. Monroe Won The Year Before.

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mrcvsjr 1 year, 2 months ago

No they didn't Crisp County won both girls and boys last year.

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hotdog 1 year, 2 months ago

Winning region is not my issue....getting jacked in the first or second round when u have final 4 talent is

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NUMBER1FAN 1 year, 2 months ago

Credit to both teams.....but this was the big one! Congrats to the Pats! Good Luck in playoffs to both teams.

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dmyers80 1 year, 2 months ago

before I start I want to repeat that I am NEUTRAL, I just like to watch good basketball... Now Westover fans before we start printing State Champoinship t-shirts, Its is almost IMPOSSIBLE to lose to the same team 4 times in one season, yes you all played a good game, yes you have a very talented team, but lets face it, you were one bad shot attempt away from 2nd place, its just the law of averages, you cant lose them all!! I dont want to blame the kid because its the coach's responsibility to make sure that he understands the moment,with 14 seconds left you cant take the shot that early. you have to drive and if its not there, kick it back outside... Or how about you use that time out to call a play to get the ball in the hands of one of your big mem... McGhee is the best post player in the city, and they had been having a tough time stopping Porter all night!! That being said.. Good Luck in the State Playoffs!!! Both teams.

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AuntieDee 1 year, 2 months ago

My sentiments EXACTLY! And how about that controversial call when the substitute stat keeper didn't record the time on the books? She should never be allowed to keep stats again. Those seconds were crucial to the Nadas.

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hotdog 1 year, 2 months ago

These things should not happen on your home court

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NUMBER1FAN 1 year, 2 months ago

I agree with the fact that questionable things happen all night. But with that being said, let's not diminish the outcome, because had it went the other way MHS fans would still be happy for their kids. Now the shady people on the table were Monroe appointed people,were they not? I still can't figure out why you all have that person even running your clock, because he is always being shady with the fouls, possessions, and clock. The problem with shadiness is you will get away with it for so long that you get comfortable,then when you set out to hurt other people it backfires and you end up costing the very people that hired you and that is EXACTLY what happened Friday night and because the clock keeper has no say with the playoff refs the inexperienced book keeper had no idea what was going on. It came down to, to much extra stuff going on at the Ponderosa and not enough REAL business being taken care of and it cost those children what they had been working on all season. The adults need to stop all the Pomp and Circumstance handle he business, and put the children first. But HANDS DOWN JABARI IS ONE OF THE BEST PLAYERS AROUND.

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

1 Fan...I’m not sure why you were ranting and raving about the clock-keeper. He was not the person in question. Sounds like you really dislike that guy.

You mentioned this extra stuff going on at the Ponderosa. Exactly what business was going on that cost the kids the game.? Inquiring minds want to know.

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NUMBER1FAN 1 year, 1 month ago

Auntie....Ranting and raving?? You are the one screaming in text......bold and all caps letters. But in my opinion.........too much distracting stuff was going on and noo I don't have anything personal against the clock keeper but i have sat through plenty of games where he did stuff that was wrong to give the team an advantage.

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

Not my fault about the huge text. I did not intentionally do that. The computer generated that when I edited my statement and it wouldn't go away. I do sometimes use all caps to emphasize something but not to rant and rave.

Clock keeping seems to be an issue at games at every school., I've sat through all of Monroe games at other schools and there were issues with other clock keepers as well.

I still ant to know...What was the distracting stuff? You brought it up so let it out. Make it public so we can possibly get it fix. If it directly impacts our children we have a right to know.

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mrcvsjr 1 year, 2 months ago

I posted this earlier this year. Monroe's basketball and football teams have to be undefeated, because when they lose, it is somehow someway controversial or the officials fault. I guess the previous 3+ quarters weren't played or somehow is irrelevant.

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

No one said it was the officials fault. Read my first blog. It was a fair game. I said the 10 secs were crucial in Monroe having more time to try for another basket. It is no doubt that Monroe gets more than their fair share of bad calls from the local refs. But these refs were unbiased. WHS guards outplayed ours. However, that is water under the bridge now. We have the opportunity to play again and win...just like Westover.

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PeterWeeStraw 1 year, 2 months ago

First, the game was a good game an WHS won. Let's talk about the officials going to the table to confirm a timing mistake and then listing to a coach. Before you go to the table you must have direct knowledge of the game situation. You only go to the table to fix a problem not confirm clock malfunction you must already know there is a problem. That is why you see the official counting themselves. The clock does not matter when you have direct knowledge, if he had ten seconds then it was ten seconds period. The officials lose all credibility going to the table to check for ten seconds. HOTDOG I have a BUN to pick with you, you have been covering yourself the whole time with your comments just in case, I would not be boosting to much you were not 100 behind WHS. I am just saying...to your points guard play is always critical that will determine the success of any team at any level. Please believe that Cromer was the better guard. That game will help MHS guards decision making. Auntie Dee I love what you stand for no doubt you are 100 MHS...Peace

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dmyers80 1 year, 2 months ago

I totally agree with you.. The scorer's table doesnt even count for a ten second violations, all they do is start and stop the clock at the official's signal ... thats why you see the refs counting with their hands so, so they can count it off and the players and coaches will know they are counting!!! You never go to he table for something like the official time is kept on the court... Just like football, the official time is kept on the field, no matter what the clock says!!

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hotdog 1 year, 2 months ago

I am not 100 percent behind ANY team...I just give my opinion like anyone else....and from what I have seen WHS has a team better suited for state tourney play than MHS.....I also think from a coaching standpoint while MHS coach is good....WHS coaching is better suited for state playoffs because of his ability to make adjustments quickly..so far I have not seen that from the staff at MHS....and they do have a MILLION coaches seemingly...lol....I like the McGhee kid, I think he is D1 talent....just don't think he has much help or enough help to go far in state....look in this area it's easy to win 20 games a year but the kids up in the Atlanta area play year round...as does McGhee....until you get involved in things like a fall league and improve your AAU teams, which I see are coming along gradually the s. ga schools will always get ousted..plus your officiating here is pathetic....too many tricky tack fouls, almost as if they want to be noticed more than the kids...and their incompetence showed with the 10 second count...who goes to the table...a good ref counts on his own

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dominiquedamac 1 year, 2 months ago

Players in Albany play AAU, too. Westover won 6 state titles from 1990-2001. Dougherty won state titles in 1997 & 2001. Westover and Dougherty has been to plenty of final fours. Westover was state runner up in 2009 and they was in the final four in 2010.

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hotdog 1 year, 2 months ago

I am well aware of your history....all these schools have a title but one....why is that?? All have played in a title game except one...I know the girls at this school have played for one but the boys NEVER....WHY is that?? Is the talent always better at the other 3 schools?? I don't think so....so to me there is one variable.....leadership

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dominiquedamac 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't know Monroe's history but they have played in the final four couple of times. I hope I'm wrong but Albany hasn't been in a final four since 1993. That is 20 years ago. Monroe always has good talent but they hardly ever win in the postseason on a consistent basis. The only school that is consistent is Westover. Hell, even Dougherty isn't the same team like the have been in the past. Btw, Dougherty and Westover are the only schools in Albany that has won state titles in basketball.

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

Players in Albany play on Local AAU teams. That's the problem. They need exposure and skills training outside of Albany.

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mrcvsjr 1 year, 1 month ago

In the past, most of the good players in this area ended up playing AAU ball with the Atlanta Celtics.

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

In the past are the key words. They really need to go somewhere other than from gym to gym in Albany during the summer. Coach John Morine had an awesome AAU team about for several years. They won several tournaments in and out of the state. They played high level teams every year at ESPN Wide World of Sports. He's just volunteering at Monroe but he has some coaching skills that I think could be beneficial to MHS.

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

Well, dang Hotdog! I will have to agree with much of what you said. lol

However, in my opinion, I think MHS has as much of a chance as WHS in the state playoffs. After all, MHS beat them 3 times this year. Time will tell. I'm still with the Nadas 100% win, lose, or draw! They've had an awesome season.

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

OMG! The officiating here is definitely pathetic!

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you Peter! I am 100% for the NADAS...win. lose, or draw!

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

Initially, the official was not questioning the clock, he was questioning the 10 second count of the other official. He felt that his count was too fast. He was counting along with him.

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hotdog 1 year, 2 months ago

Just take a look at the picture.....athletic kid easily goes around big FB player....gonna see a lot of that in state if you play man to man

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bballintruth 1 year, 2 months ago

Good game between MHS and WHS. WHS won when it really counted. They played hard and Cromer and Kell (sp) had their best game against MHS this year. MHS did not apply the defensive pressure they had against WHS in the past 3 games. They didnt challenge shots like the other games. McGhee had a good game but began to really step up after the half. I would like to see him play with that intensity for 4 quarters, especially if his team is down 12 pts like MHS was at the 3rd qtr of the game. MHS needed more guard play offensively and defensively. With 14 seconds left in a game and you are down by 2, its time to go to your best player on the court even if the other team expects you too. But that's a decision thats made by the coach, so you can't fault the player. Now both teams got to move on to unknown opponents in the State play-offs. This is what you have prepared, practiced and performed for all season long.....a chance at the State Title. Wish both teams the best.

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

BBALL...I agree wholeheartedly with you, even though I hate to. I must say though, not only did McGhee need to play with more intensity in the first half, they ALL needed to. He just can't do it by himself for 4 quarters. Everyone needs to do their part. They'll be ready tomorrow! I know they will.

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dmyers80 1 year, 1 month ago

I agree with you bballintruth... 14 seconds left, down by 2 , you have to get the ball into the hands of your best player!! And with ALL those coaches, none of them thought "maybe we should try to get the ball to McGhee"??

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dmyers80 1 year, 2 months ago

Hotdog made some good points about the talent and coaching... The sad thing is the best basketball coach coach is at the school that doesnt have a title... Hell last year he went to the final four with a team full of gaurds and a football player!! Give im the talent at Monroe or Westover and It would automatically be a state title team!

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hotdog 1 year, 2 months ago

Actually AHS does have a title....in the 40's or 50's....but they have one

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dominiquedamac 1 year, 1 month ago

Albany made it to the elite 8...they didn't play in the final four last year.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 2 months ago

**So THIS is where all my homeez been hanging out?

WHASSSAPPPPP HOMEEEEEZZZZZZZ?????????**

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hotdog 1 year, 1 month ago

You are a first class butthole....

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

Sister Ruby...this ain't an Obama bashing party. So your Homeezs ain't in here.

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hotdog 1 year, 1 month ago

Auntie Dee u have to forgive Darrel Ealum.....oops sister ruby....

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FryarTuk 1 year, 1 month ago

Sister, get a stiff drink and your vibrator and go to bed early. Leave these people alone. You know I love you. FT

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hotdog 1 year, 1 month ago

U r what's wrong with this city...people were having a good discussion and u come with that b.s.....your divisive comments are an indicator of your ignorance...get a life you stupid prejudiced f'ed up s.o.b

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PeterWeeStraw 1 year, 1 month ago

The best thing you can do is ignore some people in your life. They will go away. They need acknowledgement when you don't provide that they go away.

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hotdog 1 year, 1 month ago

Auntie...I apologize I get sick of s.r. their comments and their divisive tone...

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hotdog 1 year, 1 month ago

Monroe...I will give you this...you seem to have competitive sports programs across the board.....too bad your adm is about to run your football coach off to Americus or at least wants to take AD job away from him and gve to girls coach(who is an excellent coach by the way)and has been openly critical of your boys basketball coach to the point she has stated she wanted the asst girls coach to have the job( good guy by the way)....I also saw know that to suspend 10 starters on game day when the region championship is on the line for football for tardies is either one of two things....a no nonsense leader or one who wishes to sabotage a program....the politics of MHS is perhaps a large reason why other than O.Jones.....there are not more state titles hanging from your rafters.....there, I said it...oh yeah...there were several games where I saw NO ADMINISTRATION at the games...tragic indeed

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AuntieDee 1 year, 1 month ago

Alrighty then.....ummmmm.........

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