ALBANY — They’re young, but the exuberance is off the charts.
Monroe’s Lady Tornadoes rolled through the first round of the Class AAAA girls’ state playoffs, 80-61, over Riverdale Tuesday.
Monroe head coach Cheryl Cheeks played all eight of her freshman and over half played early and often. The two usual suspects, despite being underclassmen led the way. Sophomore Key Key Price scored 23 in the win and freshman Jomekia Morine added 17 in the first round victory. Morine, for one, doesn't mind playing with all the youngsters."
“I’m a freshman, so (it’s fun),” she said. “The senior encourage us and tell us what to do.”
Added Cheeks, "(The freshman) aren't young any more. We're deep into the season now."
Monroe will return home either Friday or Saturday to play Region 3-AAAA No. 2 seed Howard out of Macon. The Lady Huskies knocked off Hepzibah in the first round Tuesday.
“You always want to play at home,” Cheeks said. “We played with a lot of intensity, but we weren’t able to sustain it for four quarters. That was the only problem.”
The Lady Tornadoes (22-6) blew out to a 16-1 lead after Riverdale missed its first seven shots from the field and the first four at the free throw line. The Lady Raiders wnet 14 for 36 at the foul line on the night.
Riverdale (15-14, Region 4-AAAA’s No. 4 seed) couldn’t solve Monroe’s press defense early, but calmed things down and got as close as 33-22 with 4:57 left before half on De’Ana Turner's layup. Turner finished with a game-high 24 points, but picked up a technical foul and played the majority of the second half with four fouls.
“We knew about her, but we still didn’t defend her,” Cheeks said of Turner.
Monroe's lead ballooned to 48-29 at the half. The Lady Raiders had one last push left in the fourth quarter after another Turner lay-in cut the Lady Tornadoes’ lead to 72-52 with 4:03 to play, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Angel Cooper added 15 points in the loss, ending Riverdale’s season in the first round. Davone Anduze chipped in 11 points for Monroe, which reached the quarterfinals last season playing on the road in the playoffs.