Albany High’s Malik Dungee attempts a layup in between Monroe defenders Emersean Offord, left, and Jordan Tyson during Tuesday’s Region 1-AAAA quarterfinals game. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — In the third quarter of Tuesday’s Region 1-AAAA tournament game against Monroe, Albany head coach Archie Chatmon made a defensive switch putting Tyler Cheese in the middle of the lane.
Seconds later a player from Monroe drove into the paint for a layup. An incensed Chatmon immediately chided Cheese for not stepping in to take a charge.
Just one quarter later Cheese redeemed himself at the most opportune time, getting Monroe to turn the ball over by taking a charge with 20 seconds left in the game. A couple of possessions later he sealed the win for the Indians by sinking two free throws as No. 4 seed Albany got the better of No. 5 Monroe, 59-56, to end the Tornadoes’ season and advance to Thursday’s region semifinals against No. 1 Westover.
The victory also guaranteed a trip to the Class AAAA state playoffs for Albany, which went 3-0 against Monroe this season.
“If I had to pick one play to put the game on that would be it,” Chatmon said of Cheese’s charge. “He showed a lot of guts because a lot of guys would pout in that situation. But he stepped up and showed the metal that he has inside. That was huge.”
For two rival schools contending to keep thier seasons alive, the game was a battle that would only be won with perseverance. Down by as many as 11 points in the third period, the Tornadoes fought their way back to eventually make it a one-point ballgame in the final minute.
Albany held on, but it could have easily gone the other way.
“A few missed free throws here, a few turnovers there, a few defensive mishaps, but overall our guys played like they wanted to advance,” Monroe head coach Marquis Davis said. “We had our opportunities there at the end with the free throws, but it happens like that.”
The free throws Davis were referring to were those of Deonte Young, who stepped to the line with 2.4 seconds left with a chance to tie the game. However, Young missed the first of two free throws, and from there the Tornadoes had to foul Cheese, who then hit the nail-in-the-coffin charity shots.
“I told him it didn’t come down to the last free throw, he just happened to have the last free throw,” Davis said. “I thought he had a great game and a great year to be an undersized post player.”
As good as Cheese was, no one was better scoring Tuesday than Dezmond Newberry. The senior forward was the biggest reason the Indians led throughout the game, scoring 15 first-half points before finishing with 20.
“I told him that he came out ready to play from the start, and he set the tone,” Chatmon said. “That senior leadership is what we have to have from him the rest of the way. If we are going to be successful he has to come out and set the table.”
Staying true to a longstanding policy of his, Chatmon did not permit his players to speak after the game. Cheese scored 18 points, and Malik Dungee added 11 points.
Emersean Offord came off the bench to lead the Tornadoes with 13 points, while Young had 10 and Jamarcus Nunnally contributed eight points.
“We had the intensity and kept believing, but things just did not pull out for us,” Monroe’s Trentavious Jackson said. “This is very difficult because it’s playoff time and everybody wants it, we just have to want it more.”
Chatmon was quick to acknowledge that the same perseverance his team displayed against Monroe is the very thing needed to win again against Westover, the region’s top seed and The Herald’s No. 1 team.
“From this point forward we aren’t going to be better than anyone we play,” he admitted. “We just have to go out there and fight. It’s all about effort, and that’s what made me so proud (Tuesday night). We knew Monroe was going to bring it, and my guys had the effort from the opening tip.”
CRISP COUNTY BOYS 56, AMERICUS-SUMTER 43: The Cougars never trailed in Tuesday’s game and advanced to the Class AAAA state playoffs for the fourth straight year under head coach Terry Smith.
The No. 3 seed Cougars also advanced to Thursday’s region semifinals against Herald No. 4 and region second seed Worth County.
“This put us back in the state playoffs, so now the pressure is off,” Smith said. “Our next goal is to take care of Worth.”
On Tuesday, the Cougars easily took care of Americus-Sumter behind a game-high 25 points from Herald Super 6er Javoris Cooks and 12 points from both Davion Harvey and Montre’ Hartage. Americus-Sumter, which beat Cairo in Monday’s opening round, was led by Travin Harris’ 11 points.
WESTOVER GIRLS 51, CAIRO 47: Tuesday night turned into a battle for The Herald No. 4 Lady Patriots, but they emerged with a trip to Thursday’s semifinals to play Crisp County and an automatic berth in the state playoffs.
Westover entered the fourth quarter with a nine-point lead, but Cairo took advantage of missed free throws from the Lady Patriots and chipped away at the lead, eventually cutting it to three points.
However, the Lady Patriots hung on and will try to snap a five-game losing streak to Crisp County that dates back to the Region 1-AAAA championship game in 2012. The Lady Cougars’ last win against Westover came Feb. 5 when Herald No. 3 Crisp County clinched the region’s No. 2 seed.
On Tuesday, Au Bre’ Ana Moore led Westover with 25 points, and teammate Achanti Layfield added eight points.
DOUGHERTY GIRLS 51, AMERICUS-SUMTER 40: Dougherty’s Amber Ward scored 20 points to lead the Lady Trojans into Thursday’s semifinals, clinching a state tournament berth. Dougherty will play rival Monday, the tournament’s No. 1 seed and The Herald’s No. 2 team, at 7 p.m. Thursday with a trip to the region championship game on the line.
Ward scored 18 of her points in the first three quarters as Dougherty built a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter and didn’t let Americus-Sumter get back into the game late.
Also scoring in double figures for the Lady Trojans were Herald Super 6er Ra’Keta Shelton (15) and Takiya Davis (11). Americus-Sumter’s Amber Hicks scored nine points to lead the Lady Panthers.
-- Herald Sports Editor John Millikan contributed to this report