The Monroe girls basketball team celebrates its Region 1-AAAA championship victory Friday against Westover. (Staff Photo: Brad McEwen)
ALBANY — In front of a packed house at Monroe High School’s gymnasium Friday evening, the Lady Tornadoes and the Lady Patriots battled for 32 minutes.
They grappled for loose balls, endured hard fouls from the opposing side and, most of all, left everything on the court.
When it was all over Monroe walked away victorious as it claimed its second straight Region 1-AAAA title, narrowly topping Westover, 37-34, in a game where defense was the dominant theme.
The star of the game was none other than Herald Super 6er Key Key Price, who took center stage when she hit the game-winning shot with 5.5 seconds remaining.
“Just get to the basket,” Price said when asked about her strategy. “They really weren’t playing defense, so I said I would just attack the gaps, get to the hole and not settle for jump shots.”
If there was no defense to speak of, Price was the only benefactor, scoring a commanding 23 points to be the only player from either side in double figures.
Tied 34-34 with about 20 seconds in regulation, Westover’s My’Kesa Smith drew a foul on her way to the basket. With pressure mounting, she missed both free throws to give Monroe a chance to win the game with the last possession.
“The bottom line for this game is they made free throws and we didn’t,” Westover head Lewis Smith said. “They got back in the game because of free throws, and our misses cost us the game.”
To no one’s surprise the Lady Tornadoes put the ball in the hands of Price for the last play and let her go to work. She dribbled a few seconds, started her drive and rose up in the middle of the lane for a soft one-hander. The eruption of screams and cheers almost drowned the referee’s whistle, signaling a basket and a foul.
Price made her free throw, but the game was not over. Westover’s Achanti Layfield went the length of the court and threw up a last-second trey that rolled around the rim before coming out.
As big as Price’s game-winner was it would not have been possible without Cekeya Mack, who tied the game with 33 seconds left when Price failed to convert. While only Price’s name will stand out on the scorer’s sheet, it took a team effort to overtake Westover, which led for most of the game.
Mack and Treasure Frazier scored four points apiece. The Lady Patriots were led by AuBre’Ana Moore’s nine points, while Layfield had eight points and Smith scored seven points.
“Our ladies definitely persevered and hopefully we can carry it over to the state playoffs,” Monroe head coach Cheryl Cheeks said. “Both teams had lapses, but we got a couple of key turnovers that helped us out. Westover is a great team, and Coach Lewis always does a good job with them and they always play us hard.”
“Our goal is not set. We are going to continue to work hard to win a state championship. We have home-court advantage, which is great so hopefully our girls will take advantage of that.”
Despite the loss Westover will still host a playoff game next week as the second seed. It is now win or go home for both sides.
Crisp County boys, girls take No. 3 seeds
After losing in the final minutes to Worth County in Thursday’s semifinals, the Crisp County boys came back Friday and took its frustration out on Albany, blowing the Indians out, 69-51, to capture the No. 3 seed in next week’s state tournament.
Javoris Cooks and Primetime Hamilton led the Cougars with 17 and 16 points, respectively. Condell Woodson added 12 points and Davion Harvey finished with nine points.
Albany senior forward Dezmond Newberry finished with a team-high 16 points, while Malik Dungee-Ali scored 10 points and Dontavious Hudson and John Flood each had seven points.
In the girls’ consolation game, Dougherty showed that it is a better team than what it displayed Thursday against No. 1 Monroe, but the Lady Trojans came up short again, losing their second game in as many days, falling to Crisp County 63-53.
Dee Dee Williams poured in 19 points for the Lady Cougars, while Kayla Green contributed 13 points. Nasheema Oliver responded with 15 points after fouling out the last contest.
Dougherty’s Ra’Keta Shelton and Amber Ward scored 18 apiece, while Dominique Anderson chipped in nine points.