Monroe’s Darrien Anderson, left, scored a game-high 15 points in Saturday’s region-title clinching win. (Herald file photo)
ALBANY — Sure, Monroe has talked about it.
They’ve discussed how it would feel to be the first team in Southwest Georgia — boys or girls — since The Herald’s Fab 5 Poll was introduced five years ago to hold the No. 1 ranking wire-to-wire.
But it’s not their most immediate goal.
No, that was accomplished Saturday night.
Monroe (19-2, 12-0) demolished usually-pesky region foe Crisp County, 70-38, at home late Saturday for their eighth straight win. More importantly, the victory not only secured the regular-season Region 1-AAAA title but clinched home-court advantage for the upcoming region tournament.
“It was big,” Monroe coach Marquis Davis said Sunday. “It’s a goal we’ve been talking about all year, to end up No. 1 in the regular season. It not only helps us, but it helps our girls, too.”
The Lady Tornadoes, The Herald’s No. 2-ranked team, also won Saturday, 71-34, against Crisp and will join the boys team in the comfy confines of Monroe’s gym.
That’s right, the tournament will not be played at the Civic Center like has in recent seasons — which all but nullifies a team’s home-court advantage — but Monroe’s gym.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve been able to host it there, but from what I’m hearing, our principal is making sure we get to host it at our actual gym,” Davis said. “That’s huge for us and our girls.”
It’s even bigger considering that — because of the new state tournament format — the winner of the region tournament now is guaranteed to host the first three games in state at home, rather than just two, which is how it’s been in the past.
“The side of the region we’re matched up against in those early rounds — teams like Eagles Landing, North Claytoon and Jonesboro — are tough, so to know (we have our destiny) in our hands is key for us,” Davis said.
Monroe — which got a game-high 15 points from Darrien Anderson, 14 points and four blocks from Herald Super 6er Jabari McGhee and 13 points from Keith Bowens in the win Saturday — has just three regular-season games left (Terrell County, Albany and Worth County), and Davis said his guys have no intention of letting up.
“It’s important to finish strong so we have momentum, but it’s also important to my kids we stay on top (of the Fab 5 Poll),” he said. “From a coaching standpoint, it’s good to be on top, and my kids love it, too. But we also understand that when you’re on top, everyone’s chasing you. So we know we’re going to get everyone’s best game.”