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No. 1 Norcross boys show depth in win over Lions

SUWANEE - Norcross was not at its sharpest in Tuesday night's Region 7-AAAAA showdown with Peachtree Ridge.

However, the newly-anointed No. 1 team in the Georgia Sports Writers Association's Class AAAAA rankings showed its depth, chemistry and perseverance in disposing of the host Lions 78-51.

The Blue Devils' big three of Taariq Muhammad, Denzail Jones and Adrian Hubbard had their customary strong games, combining for 49 of the team's points, but Norcross (18-1, 12-0) also got a lift from its bench.

In particular, junior Jeremy Lamb played a major role, scoring seven of his 12 points in a key stretch late in the first half that helped the Blue Devils put the game away and open up a 21/2-game lead on the second-place Lions (13-6, 10-3) in the region race.

"He's been doing that since Christmas," Norcross coach Jesse McMillan said of his reserve guard. "His confidence is growing every game. He kind of knows his role now. ... It's a powerful weapon to have two or three guys like that coming off the bench like that. We're really developing some good chemistry."

That chemistry came in handy when Peachtree Ridge rebounded in the second quarter after Norcross had jumped out to an early lead.

Khalid Mutakabbir scored seven of his team-high 19 points in the quarter to help rally the Lions from what had been as much as an 18-8 deficit to pull to within 25-22 after he hit a left-wing 3-pointer with 2:36 left in the half.

But Lamb quickly answered, following his own miss with a layup, then adding a dunk in transition and a 3-pointer from the left wing to lead an 8-1 run over the final 2:19 of the half that stretched the Blue Devils' lead to 33-22 at intermission.

"I was feeling good and my shot was feeling good," Lamb said. "My teammates were looking for me. We're just playing good team ball."

That team ball carried over in the second half.

Adrian Hubbard - who posted a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds in his first trip back to Peachtree Ridge since transferring to Norcross last summer - scored two quick hoops to lead an 8-3 run to start the third quarter and the Lions never pulled any closer than 15 the rest of the way.

After a strong first portion of the first half, especially by Mutakabbir, the finish was a disappointing one for Lions' coach Keith Arrington.

"In the first half, we ... did a lot of careless things, and (Norcross is) not the kind of team you can do that against," Arrington said. "The 10-point (halftime) cushion made it tough, and ... we just kind of let it get away from us."

To go with his points, Muhammad added seven assists and three steals, while Jones chipped in 17 points and five steals.

Mutakabbir also had 10 rebounds, while Corey Blackwell added six points and 10 boards and Daryan Griffin came off the bench to score 15 points.