Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Norcross' Adrian Hubbard (42) knocks the ball out of the hands of Milton's Julian Royal as he tries to score on Saturday.
NORCROSS -- Norcross came into Saturday's meeting with Milton in the GAC Boys Basketball Showcase in need of a bounce-back game after a disappointing loss to Peachtree Ridge a night earlier.
And Blue Devils coach Jesse McMillan came away from the game believing his team got it, even though it didn't get the win.
A few miscues down the stretch by No. 3 Norcross allowed second-ranked Milton to escape with a 71-67 victory in a state tournament-like atmosphere at GAC's Long Forum despite double-doubles from Jeremy Lamb and Adrian Hubbard.
However, McMillan said he may point to this game later in the season as a building block.
"This was a big moment for us," McMillan said after his team fell to 3-2 on the season. "We hit the lowest point in recent (Norcross) history (Friday) night. That's all to Peachtree Ridge's credit. This is a young team mentally, and we needed that environment to bounce back.
"We all felt bad (Friday) night, but this game, in my opinion, was the perfect bounce back. You have a (Milton) team that's a heavy favorite in the state and known nationally, and we showed we can still play."
Norcross showed it could play out of the game by roaring out to a 9-2 lead, but Milton (7-0) came back to take a 17-15 lead after the first quarter.
Neither team led by more than five points from that point until the final seconds, and the two teams exchanged the lead 15 times with nine ties on the evening.
The last tie came at 59-59 after a pair of E. Victor Nickerson free throws with 5:24 remaining.
But Milton answered with a Julian Royal dunk just 57 seconds later to take the lead for good at 61-59.
Norcross twice pulled as close as a point, the last time at 65-64 after Chris Bolden's layup with 1:53 left.
And the Blue Devils still had chances even after Dai'Jon Parker's driving layup gave Milton a 67-64 lead with 1:30 left.
But turnovers on consecutive Norcross possessions and a missed free throw on a 1-and-1 opportunity kept Milton in front.
Jordan Loyd and Parker then connected on a pair of free throws each in the final 11.7 seconds before Marty Johnson's 3-pointer with 5 seconds left provided the final margin.
"We can use these scenarios now and we have a basis for practice," McMillan said. "These young men now understand how one possession can be."
Lamb led Norcross with 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, while Hubbard added 17 points and 11 boards. Nickerson also reached double figures with 13 points and added six boards.
Royal led Milton with 20 points and six rebounds, while Parker chipped in 18 points, Shannon Scott added 14 points and nine assists and Evan Nolte finished with 12 points and six rebounds.