Monroe’s Davone Anduze has her shot blocked by the Howard defense during Friday’s GHSA Class AAAA second-round state tournament game in Albany. Anduze and the Lady Tornadoes led late, but Howard’s last-second shot sank Monroe, 49-48. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY – Howard’s VaQueshia Hall strolled down the school hall adjacent to Monroe High’s gym Friday and called it her team’s “walk of fame.”
“We did it,” said Hall, who had just poured in 16 points in a second-half comeback in the second round of the GHSA Class AAAA girls’ state playoffs to knock off Region 1-AAAA champ Monroe, 49-48, in the final seconds.
It wasn’t enough for the Lady Huskies to pick up their first playoff win in school history earlier this week. They had to go and do it again Friday in Albany to reach the Elite Eight, too.
“We’re here,” Howard senior center Jamila Mayfield said after providing the winning basket with three seconds left, ending the Lady Tornadoes’ season at 22-7. “We might as well go ahead and win it.”
Howard High out of Macon will get the chance to keep advancing Tuesday in the state quarterfinals at Region 4-AAAA’s top seed, Jonesboro, which eliminated South Effingham, 59-43, in the Sweet 16.
Monroe’s youthful dreams of getting back to the Elite Eight came crashing down in the final three minutes at home after leading for three quarters and dominating the first half.
“We just didn’t play our game,” Lady Tornadoes’ head coach Cheryl Cheeks said. “As usual free throws hurt us and missed layups. Those things we’ve been working on the last two years.”
Monroe led by as many as 12 in the first half playing with the fire that got them to the Sweet 16 and still held a 37-33 lead going into the final quarter. Mayfield, who picked up here fourth foul early in the final period, went scoreless in the first half, but scored eight points to go with four blocks in the second half.
Howard head coach Latavia Coleman subbed Mayfield in on offensive possessions and then out on defense to avoid picking up her fifth foul down the stretch.
“Coach just felt like I could do better on offense than I could on defense to keep from getting five fouls,” said Mayfield, who credited her team’s intensity in the second half with the comeback. “We just had to come out and work harder than them. We just had to run harder and outwork them.”
Mayfield’s biggest bucket came at the end after Monroe’s Key Key Price buried a 10-foot, pull-up jumper to give the Lady Tornadoes’ a 48-47 lead with 13 seconds to play.
Howard (20-7, Region 2-AAAA’s No. 2 seed) inbounded to Erica Moore, who flew down the sideline and dished to an open Mayfield underneath. The 6-foot-2 center had no choice but to send the Lady Huskies to the next round.
“I just saw the ball in the air and I said, ‘I’ve got to get it,’” Mayfield said. “When I did I just hoped I didn’t walk and layed it up then just prayed it went in.”
Despite having underclassmen all over the court, the Lady Tornadoes used their seniors to build a 26-14 lead in the first half with 2:18 left before the break. Davone Anduze and Paige Cox scored seven each in the first half to lead Monroe and the Lady Tornadoes’ press caused havoc in hostile territory for Howard.
Eventually, though, the youth showed in the second half and Howard’s Hall and Mayfield rallied the Lady Huskies. Mayfield scored on a driving layup with 1:29 to play, giving Howard its first lead of the game, 45-44.
Late turnovers and a 10-for-23 clip at the free throw line proved costly for Monroe.
“I’m proud of the young ladies,” Cheeks said. “I think we’ve had a successful season. I just hope this experience will motivate them for next year. (Inexperience played a role) especially in the end, but you can’t gripe on that. They’re young. They’ve got time to build and get better.”
Moore added 11 points in Howard’s win, while Taylor Thorpe scored nine.
Monroe was led by 10 points apiece from Price and Cedriana Waters. Jasmine Williams had a huge second half, scoring all seven of her points in the final two quarters to go with nine rebounds.
Departing seniors Anduze and Cox finished with seven each. The Lady Tornadoes’ also say goodbye to seniors Jasmine Frazier and Amber Allen.