When two of Albany’s public high schools compete in an athletic competition, it is a big deal. The rivalries and the traditions run deep. There might just be additional rivalries and traditions beginning.
Monroe High School squared off with Deerfield Windsor (5-2) Saturday night in the final game of the U Save It Classic. While the U Save It Classic has been around for years, Deerfield Windsor has never been allowed to compete because of rules between the GHSA and the GISA. Those rules have changed recently and for the first time, Monroe and Deerfield met on the basketball court Saturday night. And what a game it was.
If anyone watching thought private school basketball was not as competitive as public school - at least in Deerfield Windsor’s case, they thought wrong. Monroe led the entire game and won 74-67, but the game had fans from both sides on the edge of their seats almost the entire game. The intensity from the court was evident as the two teams battled back and forth. Monroe had the height and speed advantage, but the Knights were able to counter with great three-pointers at crucial times to keep the game close. Still, the athletic abilities of players like Marius Ellis, Za’tarious Anderson, Kareem Nixon among others, kept the Tornadoes in front all night.
The Golden Tornadoes (7-3) led 40-35 at the half and looked like they were about to put the Knights away for good in the third quarter when they opened that period with a 14-5 run to start and held a 54-40 lead. Things looked bleak for the Knights as Deerfield’s center Ronald Bates had four fouls and then point guard Shamir Wingfield slid across the floor and banged his head on the concrete wall at the end of the third.
But the Knights never gave up. After the end of the third with a timeout, Bates and Wingfield returned to the floor and the Knights gained new life. Monroe was called for technical fouls and Jordan Moser drilled all four of the free throws. Moments late Bates slammed home two points which fired up the crowd and his teammates the brought the Knights to within eight points of the Tornadoes. Wingfield then hit a couple of jump shots from the foul line and the score was 60-56. Bates was then called for a foul against Za’tarious Anderson as he tried to shoot for two. The foul sent Bates to the bench for the night and Anderson hit the two free throws to end the Monroe scoring drought. Still, the Knights persisted and trailed only 69-67 with 23 seconds left on the clock. Trying to get the ball back, the Knights fouled Jaynard Stephens. Stephens hit one of the free throws and missed the second, but teammate Marius Ellis was there for the rebound and put the ball back up for two points to kill the Knights hope of the last second chance.
“Our boys fought hard,” said Deerfield Windsor Head Coach Bill Cefaratti. “We didn’t keep them off the glass enough and two of our starters got into foul trouble. We had a bunch of underclassmen that played big minutes. We have a group of kids that all contribute, play team ball, and we are improving every day.” Cefaratti added that he and his team enjoyed competing in the tournament and look forward to joining the tradition.
Ellis led all scorers with 24 points including three slam dunks to fire up the crowd. Kareem Ageel chipped in 11 for the Golden Tornadoes and Quadre Watts added 10.
Wingfield led the Knights in scoring with 19 points, Garrett Smith had 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists for Deerfield Windsor, and Moser added 13 points.