Norcross knocks Mustangs out of state tourney

ATLANTA - The question going into Saturday night's quarterfinal game between the Meadowcreek boys and Norcross was whether the Mustangs would be able to stop Blue Devil star forward Gani Lawal.

The answer, at least over the final two quarters, was an emphatic no.

Lawal, a Georgia Tech commitment, scored 17 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked four shots in the second half alone to lead No. 3 Norcross to a 74-62 win over Meadowcreek at Morehouse College.

Norcross (27-4) advances to the semifinals, where it will face the Redan-Douglass winner on Thursday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. Meadowcreek finishes its record-setting season at 24-7.

"I tried to be more of a factor offensively," said Lawal, who had just two points and four boards in the first half. "I just wanted to step up and give better effort."

He certainly did that.

The 6-foot-9 junior dominated the paint over the last two quarters, drawing numerous fouls from the Meadowcreek frontcourt - he attempted 16 free throws - on one end and altering a number of Mustang shots on the other.

"In the second half he wanted it a bit more," Norcross head coach Eddie Martin said. "He called for the ball a bit more and we did a good job of getting it to him."

Said Norcross guard Jodie Meeks of his good friend: "He dominated the post."

Meeks wasn't too bad either.

He and Meadowcreek star Chris Allen battled to a virtual standstill individually - both finished with 24 points, with Meeks pulling down 10 rebounds and Allen grabbing seven - but Meeks had a lot more help than his counterpart.

Not only did Lawal finish with 19 points and 14 rebounds, but guard Brenton Butler had a tremendous game for the Blue Devils, scoring 18 points and pulling down eight rebounds of his own.

Fellow guard Tony Neysmith finished with seven points and six rebounds, but did his most impressive work on the defensive side of the floor, where the Blue Devils held Meadowcreek to just 21 of 65 shooting from the floor (32.3 percent).

Included in that number is a 1 of 10 performance from Meadowcreek super sophomore Teondre Williams, who finished with just three points.

The Mustangs' other lethal scorer, Antione Bolden, had 10.

"That was our whole focus," Martin said. "We understand (Allen)'s going to score. He's too good not to. But you don't want to let the other two big guns get you.

"I think they finished with just 13 points, so that was big."

Said Meeks: "We knew (Allen) was a great player and he'd get his points. Containing the supporting cast - that was the key."

Despite their shooting woes, the Mustangs were still very much in the game in the second half.

Meadowcreek trailed just 31-27 at halftime and did a good job of keeping Norcross from ever making any game-clinching runs, until late in the third quarter.

The Blue Devils scored 10 straight points at one stretch, culminating in a Brandon Chambers tip-in with 1:04 left in the third to give Norcross a 54-41 edge.

The Mustangs immediately cut the lead to eight, but Meeks hit a runner right before the buzzer to give Norcross a 56-46 lead at the end of three.

From there the Blue Devils' lead never dipped below seven.

Meeks hit six of eight free throws in the final period and Butler added six points of his own to keep the Mustangs from ever making a serious run in the final eight minutes.

C.J. Estelle, who hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, finished with 11 points for Meadowcreek, which was outrebounded 46-22.

Despite the loss, the Mustangs left the victors impressed.

"They're a good team," Lawal said, "they came out with a lot of energy."

But not enough to contain Lawal's dominating second-half performance.

And now the big man and his Blue Devil teammates will return home for another Final Four in the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

"I'm real excited," Lawal said. "We're one step closer to the state championship."