Monroe’s Key Key Price dribbles past a Dougherty defender during Friday’s game at Darton’s Cavalier Arena. Price scored 36 points to lead The Herald No. Lady Tornadoes to victory, keeping Monroe unbeaten in Region 1-AAAA play. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — Key Key Price remembers the frustration very well.
Price and her Monroe High School teammates won the girls Region 1-AAAA title last year, then advanced to the second round of the state tournament before a one-point loss to Howard ended their promising season.
After a disappointing finish in 2013, the Lady Tornadoes would like a chance at redemption.
Monroe took a step toward its goal of repeating as region champions with a 69-49 victory over Dougherty on Friday afternoon at Darton College, moving The Herald No. 2 Lady Tornadoes within a game of clinching the regular-season title.
“We won region last year, so we wanted to do the same thing this year,” said Price, who finished with a season-high 36 points as she scored all but one basket during the final quarter.
“We want to go farther and do better.”
The only thing standing in Monroe’s way is second-place Crisp County, whom the Lady Tornadoes (16-4, 11-0 Region 1-AAAA) visit tonight in a huge region contest.
There is even more incentive to win the regular season title this year. The winner earns the right to play host to the Region 1-AAAA tournament, which begins on Feb. 10.
“It’s always good to get to play on your home court,” Monroe coach Cheryl Cheeks said. “Any time you have the opportunity to do that, it’s a great thing.”
On Friday, Monroe played like first place was on the line. The Lady Tornadoes won their eighth straight since a modest four-game losing streak during Christmas break.
After Dougherty’s RaKeta Shelton scored the game’s first basket, the Lady Tornadoes went on a 10-0 run, then built leads as high as 15 points during an aggressive first quarter.
They created turnovers and swarmed around the ball. They shot a blistering 45 percent (9-of-20) in the first quarter on their way to shooting 46 percent (29-of-63) from the floor in the game.
After trailing by 17 early in the second, Dougherty trimmed the deficit to eight points twice, then Dominique Anderson sank a pair of free throws at the 3:55 mark to pull them to within six at 25-19.
But Cekeya Mack’s putback ignited a 6-0 run, and the Lady Tornadoes were never threatened again.
“I was pretty pleased with how we started,” Cheeks said. “We started well and overall, I thought we played pretty good (Friday).”
Any hopes the Lady Trojans had of making a comeback were dashed when they lost five turnovers to start the second half, triggering a 6-0 Monroe run as Dougherty dug itself into a 37-21 deficit.
Lady Trojans coach Charlene Jackson tried to find something positive from Friday’s loss, which sent them into a tie for fourth place with Americus-Sumter.
“We shot free throws better (Friday) than we have all year,” she said. “I was also pleased with our young sophomore Imani Ferguson, who came in and gave us a little lift.
“But we cut it to six points (in the second quarter) and had some missed opportunities. When you are playing against the top team in the region, all of your players have to be ready to play. I felt like at times we were playing four on five, or three on five because our fourth and fifth players didn’t show up to give us what we needed.”
In addition to Price’s 36 points, the Lady Tornadoes got 11 points from Cedriania Waters.
Amber Ward led Dougherty with 22 points, while Shelton finished with 21.