From left, Dougherty’s Quannesha Gatling, Ra’Keta Shelton and Takiya Davis celebrate moments after The Herald No. 4 Lady Trojans knocked off No. 2 Monroe on Friday night at Darton State College, 51-50. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

From left, Dougherty’s Quannesha Gatling, Ra’Keta Shelton and Takiya Davis celebrate moments after The Herald No. 4 Lady Trojans knocked off No. 2 Monroe on Friday night at Darton State College, 51-50. (joe.bellacomo@albanyherald.com)

Cromer’s big shot forces OT as Westover boys storm back to beat Albany

ALBANY — Westover’s T.J. Cromer put it bluntly.

“The team needed me to take over, and I took over,’’ said Cromer, who not only sent the game into overtime Friday but scored nine points in OT to lift Westover to a 75-73 win against city and region rival Albany High at Darton.

Albany coach Archie Chatmon was even more succinct.

“They’re just better,’’ he said. Then he said it again, slower and more to the point: “They’re just better.’’

Cromer hit a drive at the buzzer to send the game to OT at 61-61, and he just kept coming, scoring Westover’s first seven points in overtime on a 10-foot jumper, a 3 and a pair of free throws to keep things knotted at 68-68 before Kahlil Carson hit an and-one play to give Westover a 71-68 lead with 52 seconds left.

“I just needed to make a play for my team,’’ said Carson, who finished with six points and had been scoreless since the first quarter when he made the big and-one play. “We needed this win.”

Everyone was talking about Cromer, a Herald Super 6er who finished with 28 points, including 11 in the final 5:01 of the night.

“He was clutch in this game,’’ said Carson of Cromer. “We have confidence in him. We know we can rely on him.’’

Westover, ranked No. 2 in The Herald Fab 5 poll, is 15-5 and 9-2 in the Region 1-AAAA race and has all but wrapped up the No. 2 seed behind Herald No. 1 Monroe, which is unbeaten in the region.

“This was big win,” Westover coach Dallis Smith said. “I knew what to expect from Albany High. I knew it would be this kind of game. But we need to be more disciplined. But that’s on me.

“Cromer stepped up big time. If you‘re supposed to be a big-time player, you‘re supposed to step up in big games. That‘s what he did.’’

Albany High was led by sophomore Tyler Cheese, who had a career-high 28 points, Jamarcis Nunnally (13 points) and Malik Dungee-Ali (11). Herald Super 6er Kel Miller dropped in 11 points for Westover, which next plays at Crisp County on Tuesday. Albany is at Worth County on Tuesday.

ALBANY — Was it or wasn’t it?

There’s not a fan alive who cheers for Monroe who doesn’t believe Key Key Price’s drive to the basket at the buzzer Friday night should have counted.

It didn’t.

And instead of Price lifting Monroe to a dramatic 52-51 win, Price and her teammates left the Darton State College court in shock and awe as Dougherty hung on to beat the Lady Tornadoes, 51-50, for a signature win.

The Lady Trojans, ranked No. 4 in The Herald Fab 5 Poll, will take a big jump next week after knocking off No. 2 Monroe in front of a large crowd at Darton, where Dougherty all but blew Monroe off the court early, taking a 30-15 lead.

But it came down to a final shot — and one big charge.

“I called two timeouts and I told Ivory Scott to watch (Price) because she would be driving in there, and I told her to step up and take a charge,” Dougherty coach Charlene Jackson said. “(Price) drove to the basket, and I called another timeout and told (Scott) to step up and take a charge. I told her to step up and be a brick wall.’’

The brick wall didn’t move.

“I appreciate the ref calling it,” Jackson said. “He had enough guts to make the call. People can talk about that call all they want. It’s over. They can talk about it, but it’s over.’’

The Dougherty kids went from horror and disbelief when they thought they had lost, to utter joy.

“When I saw the ball go in, I thought it was good, and felt bad. I just said, ‘Dang!’ I thought we had lost,’’ said Dougherty’s Ra’Keta Shelton, who fouled out with 4:23 left and had to watch the play from the bench. “Then I saw the ref raise his arm and call it a charge and I said, ‘Yes! Yes!’ It was like a bomb went off in my head. It just exploded. I just started grabbing (teammates) and we were celebrating like it was a party.’’

The Dougherty party started late after the Lady Trojans began the season at 2-3. They lost their opener to Monroe by 18 points and lost to Crisp County the next week to drop to 0-2 in the Region 1-AAAA race.

They’re 9-2 today and tied with Monroe (9-2 and 15-6 for the season) for the top spot in the region.

“This was a big week for us,’’ said senior guard Quannesha Gatling, who led Dougherty with 23 points. “We lost those first games to Monroe and Crisp, and we played both of them this week. We had to redeem ourselves.’’

They did.

The Monroe loss stung the most, and Shelton, who scored nine points and pulled down 18 rebounds before fouling out, said there was no doubt Dougherty would avenge that loss on Friday.

“We hit this locker room ready to go to work,’’ Shelton said. “That (73-55 loss to Monroe in the opener) was not going to happen again.’’

Shelton and Gatling, who are cousins, played inspired games and help lead Dougherty to a 30-15 lead in the second quarter, but after Monroe stormed back to take a lead in the fourth, it took Amber Ward, who made three, fourth-quarter 3-pointers — including a bank shot and a long-distance NBA 3 — to lift Dougherty.

That’s Dougherty’s secret. The Lady Trojans have a lot of weapons. Gatling said she was focused like never before and was “in a zone” — and she said she also knew when Ward was getting hot.

“I gave her that look,” Gatling said. “You know that look you give a teammate. I gave her that look and knew she was going (to make those 3s).’’

Ward scored 10 points in the fourth to finish with 12 for the night, and her final trey lifted Dougherty to a 44-37 lead with 3:18 left. But both Ward and Shelton fouled out in the last minutes and it took Gatling, who scored nine points in the final quarter, to hold off Monroe, which went on a 12-7 run to close to 51-49 when Jomekia Morine, who finished with 14 points, hit a drive with 31 seconds left. Price made a free throw but missed one with 9.8 seconds left to close to 51-50, and after Scott missed at the free throw line with 7.8 seconds left, Monroe had one last chance.

Price, a herald Super 6er who led Monroe with 18 points, drove and hit the basket and hit Scott, too— and was called for the charge.

“It was a foul, but it was not a charge,” Monroe coach Cheryl Cheeks said afterward. “That‘s my opinion and the opinion of my team.”

Cheeks told her kids afterward that if they had played in the first half the way they played in the second half, the game wouldn’t have come down to that shot.

“It’s tough. It’s tough,’’ Cheeks said twice, showing her frustration of the loss. “We have to keep our heads up and move on.‘’

WESTOVER GIRLS 59, ALBANY 24: Westover’s Lady Patriots simply slammed the door on Albany High from the tip-off Friday night, literally shutting out Albany, 14-0, in the first quarter before racing to a one-sided win.

The Lady Patriots (12-6) emptied the bench and were led by Shanteria Williams, who finished with 12 point. Achanti Layfield scored 10, and Au’Breana Moore and Tiana Hughes each scored eight points.

Albany High was led by Kairsha Jackson, who scored 11 points, and Nakeidra Gervin, who scored nine.

Westover faces Crisp County on the road Tuesday and Albany travels to Worth County on Tuesday.