Monroe's Daryl Anderson, left, takes the ball to the hole around Dutchtown's Aundre Reid during Tuesday's first round of state in Albany. Anderson and the Tornadoes rolled to an easy win. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY – The curse in the first is over.
After falling at home in the first round to lower seeds the past two seasons, Monroe came out with a vengeance Tuesday in the opening round of the Class AAAA boys state playoffs and outgunned Dutchtown, 78-55, to advance to the Sweet 16 later this week.
“As a family, we talked about the last two years being knocked out,” Tornadoes head coach Marquis Davis said. “We had to get the bear off of us, and now we’ve got the bear off and hopefully we can keep rolling.”
Monroe (22-5, Region 1-AAAA’s No. 2 seed) will play today’s winner between Rutland High and Liberty County either Friday or Saturday. If Region 2-AAAA No. 1 seed Rutland (20-5), ranked in the Top 10 in the state, wins as the favorite, the Tornadoes will be on the road in the second round.
The Tornadoes mashed the gas pedal early Tuesday and never let off, leading, 15-3, just five minutes in after back-to-back Darian Anderson 3-pointers. Anderson hit five treys in the first half and finished with 19.
“My teammates did a good job of finding me when I was open and getting me the ball,” Anderson said.
Herald Super 6er Jabari McGhee, averaging over 17 points per game, started the block party in the second quarter with a dunk on one end off a missed shot and then swatted a Dutchtown attempt on the opposite end of the court with Monroe leading 32-12.
Anderson hit his fourth 3-pointer with 3:58 to play in the second quarter coming off a huge Cortez Banks blocked shot on the other end and the Tornadoes led 36-14. Monroe led 45-23 at the break and the rout in the first round was finally on for the previously snake-bitten Tornadoes.
“We don’t want to be like any other class,” said McGhee, who has been through heartbreak in the first round. “We want to do some things.”
McGhee led Monroe with 24 points. Banks added 13, while Tim White had 12 points in the win.
Bulldogs leading scorer Donovahn Jones, who averages just under 20 points per game, got on track in the second half and scored a game-high 26. Jones is headed to the University of Minnesota to play receiver on the gridiron, while 330-pound big man Jordan Harris, who has signed to play football at Alabama State, added eight points in the loss.
“This was a hostile environment,” Dutchtown head coach Terry Herrod said. “(Monroe) came out and shot the basketball lights out. I think for them losing to Westover (in the region finals last week) really fired them up. Sometimes it takes a loss like that to get your team focused. (Tuesday) they were focused, and they put it on us.”
After beating rival Westover three times during the regular season, the loss in the Region 1-AAAA title game to the Patriots may have provided a wake-up call for Monroe.
“I believe that was the spark that we needed to ignite us,” Anderson said. “It got us refocused for the state tournament. It hurt, but it also helped. I thought about it a lot. We just had to focus on the present and that was (Tuesday).”
McGhee wasn’t about to let the Westover loss cause another first-round collapse.
“We couldn’t pout over it,” he said. “We’re trying to win a state championship.”
Davis was just glad his players put the region title loss behind them and moved on to the new prize now on the table.
“One of goals was to win the region, but our ultimate goal is to do well in the state playoffs,” Davis said. “Westover played well (Friday in the region championship). Hats off to them and good luck to them (today).”