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Turnovers lead to Devils' first loss

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Norcross coach Angie Hembree was leery beforehand. She had reason.

Troy of Fullerton, Calif., has won 150 straight games against league competition, but the Warriors don’t do too bad against outside opponents either.

Norcross, ranked No. 6 nationally by USA Today, struggled against Troy’s tight man-to-man defense and deliberate offense Wednesday night in the semifinals of the Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational.

With Diamond DeShields hitting two late 3-pointers, the Blue Devils almost pulled off a victory anyway. But Troy cashed in at the foul line in the closing seconds for a 56-51 victory at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Instead of playing for the tourney title today, Norcross (10-1) will play for third place in the prestigious 16-team girls tournament.

Troy (6-1) is in the same area of Southern California as nationally-ranked Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly and Brea Olinda, so it was hardly intimidated by going against Norcross.

“We’re used to playing top competition,” Troy coach Roger Anderson said. “We play a tough man-to-man. I knew we could get after them if we played it well and we did.”

Troy, whose loss is to No. 6-ranked Long Beach Poly, forced Norcross into 24 turnovers and withstood a late rally by the Blue Devils a day after a last-second victory over Fayette County.

“You play in a tournament like this to face top competition and face teams with different styles,” Hembree said. “We knew it would be a tough game. This is a good tournament.”

Down 47-41 with less than two minutes remaining, Norcross almost came back. After Shiala Cooper made two baskets to cut into the deficit, DeShields banked in a 3-pointer to tie the game with 36 seconds left.

Troy went back up 50-48 on two foul shots with 33 seconds remaining, but DeShields hit another 3-pointer to give Norcross the lead with 16 seconds left.

Troy went back ahead with two more free throws with nine seconds remaining and the Warriors made four more from the line after a pair of Norcross turnovers to wrap up the win.

Norcross lost despite shooting 55.3 percent and getting a big game off the bench by Cooper, a sophomore move-in from Florida who didn’t begin playing for the team until Dec. 10.

She hit all eight of her shots from the floor and had a game-high 19 points.

DeShields scored 18 points, but was 8-for-22 from the floor and committed eight turnovers. She missed her first six 3-point attempts before hitting her last two.

Dearica Hamby, who had 22 points in the quarterfinals, played only 13 minutes before fouling out and scored just four points.

Norcross committed seven turnovers in the first six minutes against Troy’s sticky man-to-man defense and fell behind 15-6. The Blue Devils battled back to take their first lead at 22-20 on a fastbreak basket by DeShields with 2:42 left in the first half, but Troy went on an 8-2 run to lead 28-24 at intermission.

Norcross made 10 of its 16 first-half shots, but had 13 turnovers to six for Troy. Cooper scored nine points, hitting all four of her shots from the floor, and DeShields had eight.

Troy, which finished with just 10 turnovers, placed four players in double figures. Alecia Dimas, who fouled out, scored 14. Madalene Barrett had 12 points, while Shelby Dougherty and Gabriella Hanson each scored 11.