Norcross' Kaela Davis (34) splits two defenders from Ramsay (Ala.) during the fourth quarter of the Lady Blue Devils victory Saturday at Wesleyan's Battle of the Southeast.
NORCROSS -- With two of the top freshman in Georgia on its roster, the Norcross girls basketball team knew it would undergo somewhat of a youth movement this season.
But in their game against Alabama powerhouse Ramsay in Session I of the Fourth Annual Peach State Battle of the Southeast showcase, the No. 4 state-ranked Blue Devils got a good mix of youth and experience.
Freshman Diamond DeShields and Kaela Davis combined with seniors Briana Jordan and Alex DeMercy in helping the Blue Devils keep the visiting Rams at arm's length before pulling away for a 51-37 victory Saturday at Wesleyan's Yancey Gymnasium.
DeShields finished with a game-high 19 points and added four rebounds, three assists and three steals, while DeMercy (11 points, five rebounds) and Jordan (10 points, four steals) also reached double figures as Norcross (5-0) never trailed after taking a 6-4 lead on Davis' transition layup just 2:58 into the game.
That doesn't mean the Blue Devils had it easy, especially in a second quarter in which Jordan, DeMercy and Davis all were forced to the bench with foul trouble.
"B.J. and Kayla (and DeMercy) all getting in foul trouble, and we still went into halftime with a lead," said Norcross coach Angie Hembree. "That says a lot for our team."
DeShields' alley-oop layup off Bianca O'Neal's lob keyed an 8-2 second-quarter run that helped the Blue Devils open up a 25-16 lead by intermission.
But the freshman forward did even more damage in the third quarter, erupting for all 12 of the team's points to keep matching the inside combo of Ramsay's posts Destiny Samuels and Kaneisha Horn, who kept the visitors from Birmingham close, twice cutting the Norcross lead to five points in the third quarter.
"I knew I had to step up defensively (in the third quarter)," DeShields said. "I like a challenge, and we needed to keep a positive attitude."
The Blue Devils kept that positive attitude when Ramsay made another charge early in the fourth quarter.
A 3-pointer from Antesha Parks pulled the Rams to within 37-33 with 5:05 remaining, but that's when DeMercy and Davis stepped up.
DeMercy converted a pass from DeShields for a layup on Norcross' next trip down the court, and Davis then followed her own miss for a layup and added a jumper in the lane off the dribble to stretch the lead back to 43-35 with 2:45 left.
Davis finished with eight points, a team-high six rebounds and two steals. Norcross also got contributions from O'Neal (four assists) and Judean Hanks (three rebounds, three steals).
Samuels led Ramsay with 13 points and 12 rebounds, while Horn added nine points and 10 boards.
Wesleyan 67, Chattahoochee 44
The Wolves (5-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class A) trailed the Cougars (2-1, No. 10 in AAAAA) 20-19 after a layup by Kayla Upchruch with 2:49 left in the first half.
That's when they applied the clamps with their pressure defense, which turned into instant offense as Wesleyan scored the final 18 points of the half to go into intermission with a 37-20 lead.
The Wolves held Chattahoochee scoreless for 6:39 in the third before Erika Ford's free throws with 4:10 left in the third quarter, and the Cougars didn't manage another field goal until Courtney Bradford's layup with 3:12 left in the third.
"We've got a lot of kids who can play," said Wesleyan coach Jan Azar. "So, we have to stay with (the press) and hope to pull away.
"Chattahoochee's a good team and Erika is a very good player, but I thought we did a good job changing up people to guard her. A lot of people did a good job of guarding her."
Ford, a junior who has already committed to Georgia, got her points -- a game-high 29 of them to be exact -- but the Wolves didn't allow anyone else to hurt them.
They also got 20 points from Wake Forest commit Erin Hall, plus 11 points and four steals from Jordan Frazier, plus 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots from Holli Wilkins to roll to the win.
Mill Creek 64, Columbia 45
The No. 5 (Class AAAAA) state-ranked Hawks (4-1) led just 31-30 with less than 2 minutes to play in the third quarter.
However, they ended the period on a 7-1 run and then added the first six points of the fourth quarter to stretch their lead into double digits before cruising to the victory over the third-ranked (AAA) Eagles.
"In all honesty, we have not played all that well offensively this year until (Saturday)," Mill Creek coach Ashley Phillips said. "So, it's obviously something good to build off of. The kids finally sort of clicked in (Saturday). When a couple of shots fall, a couple of people make good passes that lead to good shots, everybody just gets in the flow."
Jac' Weathers certainly got in the flow for the Hawks by posting a career-high 22 points, while Daily Post Super Six selection Moneshia Simmons added 14 points and Alicia Brookins chipped in nine points.