Monroe’s Trentavious Jackson (10) goes up for a shot against Westover Saturday night at the Albany Civic Center. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY – As the final buzzer sounded, Westover High School boys basketball coach Dallis Smith looked at the scoreboard, then breathed a huge sigh of relief.
In a back-and-forth affair between his Patriots and red-hot Monroe, Westover connected on five of its six free throws down the stretch to finally put an end to the Tornadoes, scoring a 45-41 victory at the Albany Civic Center Saturday night.
Monroe (8-5, 4-4 Region 1-AAAA) entered the game on a four-game winning streak, having handed Region 1-AAAA leader Worth County its first region loss of the season on Friday. Smith knew with the Tornadoes riding a wave of strong momentum, his team faced a stiff challenge.
“Our kids did a good job hitting some clutch free throws down the stretch,” Smith said. “Alec Williams and Mike Green both hit some clutch shots at the free throw line. Mike hit some really big baskets for us tonight.”
In a game where it seemed like the cheerleaders wanted to outdo each other more than the basketball teams did, both teams turned it up in the final quarter. Green gave Westover a six-point advantage at 35-29 with 6:19 left before the Patriots went dry over the next 5:03. Monroe used an 8-0 run keyed by four points from Trentavious Jackson to give the Tornadoes a 37-35 lead with 1:28.
Westover left Jamarcus Nunnally open in the right corner and the senior promptly drilled a 3-point basket to give Monroe the momentum.
But Green sank a baseline jumper on the Patriots’ ensueing possession, then drew a foul on the play. His free throw attempt put Westover ahead to stay at 38-37 with 1:16 left.
Dunavon Robinson hit a lay-in to extend the Patriots’ lead at 40-37 with 43 seconds left before Monroe charged back. Jackson missed a layup, then was fouled after grabbing his own rebound. He sank both free throws to pull the Tornadoes to 40-39 with 19 seconds remaining.
However, Green hit one of two free throws at the opposite end to make it 41-39, then the Tornadoes had a chance to tie the game but Monroe was whistled for traveling at halfcourt with 11 seconds left.
Williams hit a pair of free throws in the closing seconds as well as Andre Kennedy to seal the win.
“Once we went up, we changed up our defense and went to a zone, which I think messed them up a little,” Smith said.
Monroe coach Marquis Davis said the closing minutes of the game didn’t cost his team the victory.
“We had our opportunities,” Davis said. “Free throws played a part and they shot better than we did. We had some offensive breakdowns in that third quarter where we only scored three points. The game didn’t come down to the end … it came down to the things we didn’t quite capitalize on earlier.”
Green led the Patriots, who improved to 12-3 overall and 5-2 in Region 1-AAAA. Jackson led Monroe with 12 points.
With seven more region games left, Smith said the season could come down to a wild finish.
“This region thing is something else,” he said. “It’s tough. You better come to play every night because on any given night, you can get beat.”