Herald Super 6er and Monroe star guard Key Key Price looks at the scoreboard in the closing minutes of Wednesday’s season-ending loss to South Effingham. Price finished the game with 12 points. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — For Monroe High School, it was a horrible end to a horrible game.
With less than a minute left after South Effingham’s Tianna Germain had stolen the ball, Monroe’s Key Key Price and Lynsey Washington collided near the top of the arc in the backcourt, trying to get the ball back.
It was that kind of night for the Lady Tornadoes, who saw their promising season end in the Class AAAA state quarterfinals Wednesday night, falling 46-31 to the Lady Mustangs at Monroe High School.
South Effingham (27-4) advances to the state semifinals at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton on Saturday. For Monroe, this one will sting for a while.
For a team riding a 17-game winning streak without a loss since Dec. 27 to Laney High School in a Christmas Tournament in Moultrie, this one was hard to swallow for the players — and their fans.
After a tight first half, the Lady Mustangs grabbed the lead, then used a 6-0 run over a span of 2:26 to take a 28-22 advantage on a lay-in from Germain.
Then they held Monroe to 0-of-16 shooting from the field during the first 6:27 of the final period to take the lead for good.
“We seem to be a second-half team,” South Effingham coach Stacey Womack said. “Our girls have bought into the defensive plan. They know that we’re at our best when we let our defense create our offense for us. That was what we did (Wednesday), not letting them have what they wanted to have.”
During the first half, South Effingham threw a box-and-one defense at Monroe, using guard Dionna Hartfield to shut down Price. Hartfield did just that, holding Price to six first-half points.
However, Monroe’s Cekeya Mack and Treasure Frazier kept the Lady Tornadoes (25-5) in the lead throughout much of the first two quarters with tough shots underneath the goal.
But South Effingham switched to man-coverage in the second half. After Machala Raymonville converted a three-point play to open the third quarter, she hit a layup at the 4:03 mark, giving the Lady Mustangs their first lead at 22-19.
However, Mack hit a spin-around jumper in the paint, then Price drilled an 18-footer to make it 22-21. Mack connected on one of two free throws from the line to tie at 22.
That was the last time Monroe was within striking distance.
South Effingham’s 6-foot-2 sophomore post player Shandrea Leverett gave the Lady Tornadoes fits inside. When Monroe hit just one bucket during the final 3:15 of the third quarter, the Lady Tornadoes appeared to get frustrated, then lost composure.
“We didn’t play our style of basketball,” said Monroe girls coach Cheryl Cheeks. “And that hurt us.”
Womack said she knew several members of Monroe’s basketball team also ran track. The Lady Mustangs slowed the game to their pace, keeping the Lady Tornadoes from getting easy baskets inside. When the perimeter game wasn’t working, Monroe fell behind big in the fourth quarter.
“We knew Monroe was going to be fast,” Womack said. “We felt good ball-handling could handle it. Our ladies don’t run track, but they are fast too.”
Monroe picked the worst time of the year to play perhaps its worst game. They shot a paltry 20 percent (14-of-69) from the field, including a 3-for-24 performance in the final period.
They also managed to hit just 2-of-12 from the free throw line. Price was the only player in double figures, finishing with 12. Mack added nine.
“I told the girls to keep their heads up,” Cheeks said. “I’m very proud of the young ladies. We hung in there as long as we could.”
Raymonville led all scorers with 18 points, while Germain added 12 and Leverett 10 for the Lady Mustangs.