Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Norcross' Diamond DeShields (22) shoots for two in between Fayette County's Keyondra Jenkins, left, and Elem Ibiam (33) on Saturday.
ATLANTA — Norcross is still breaking in its new players, but the defending Class AAAAA girls champion has already beaten some of the state’s top teams.
Of course, it helps when one of your two returning starters in Diamond DeShields.
The super sophomore scored 20 points, transfer Dearica Hamby had a breakout game and Norcross — ranked No. 9 nationally by USA Today — defeated Fayette County 55-27 on Saturday in Peach State Basketball’s Battle of the Southeast at St. Pius.
In other games, Mill Creek overcame a slow start to rip St. Pius 57-37 and Greater Atlanta Christian lost 79-64 to McEachern.
Fayette County came in 4-0 and ranked No. 5 in Class AAAA by the Ga.PrepCountry.com coaches poll. But the Tigers were no match for Norcross (4-0), which owns victories over the teams ranked No. 2 and No. 3 in Class AAAAA.
Down 14-4 after the first quarter, Fayette County pulled within two early in the third quarter. Then DeShields took over and Norcross sprinted away. The Blue Devils ran off 16 straight points including the final 12 of the quarter.
DeShields had just four points at halftime. But she scored 16 in the second half before coming out and also had four rebounds, three assists and three steals in the game.
Hamby, a transfer from Marietta who has signed with Wake Forest, was the story in the first half as the Blue Devils lead 24-16. The 6-foot-1 senior was benched at the start of the game because she had forgotten her shoes, but played inspired basketball once she entered.
Hamby had 10 of her 18 points in the first half and finished with 17 rebounds as well as three assists and three steals. Alex DeMercy, the returning starter along with DeShields, led the Blue Devils with five assists and also had five rebounds.
Norcross, which opens Region 7-AAAAA play at home on Tuesday against Collins Hill, already owns victories over No. 2 McEachern and No. 3 Milton.
St. Pius scored the first seven points of the game against Mill Creek and led 10-2. But the Hawks (4-2) took the lead at 16-15 on a basket by Tamarr Williams and outscored St. Pius 21-7 in the second quarter for a 26-17 lead at halftime.
After a cold start, Mill Creek hit seven 3-pointers in the second half. Alesia Fagin led the Hawks with 12 points and had four assists. India Dillard had eight rebounds and Sierra Menzies matched Fagin’s four assists.
Emma Ucinski scored a game-best 16 points for St. Pius.
St. Pius (2-2) began the season ranked No. 10 in Class AAA. Mill Creek was No. 5 in Class AAAAA.
McEachern (4-1) used a 27-13 second quarter to lead GAC 44-26 at halftime on Saturday, but the Spartans closed within five points early in the fourth quarter before falling off again.
The Spartans (3-2) committed 27 turnovers and couldn’t take advantage of their free throws, going 21-for-32.
Kristina Nelson had 15 points and 12 rebounds to GAC, ranked No. 2 in Class AA. The 6-foot-2 sophomore had seven points and five rebounds in the first quarter as the Spartans took a 17-14 lead.
Sierra Lawrence scored 14 points for GAC, which recently had returning starter Peyton Whitted, a sophomore, transfer out of school and enroll at North Gwinnett. Dominique Wilson scored 20 points to lead McEachern.