SUWANEE -- At the time, the loss brought nothing but pain. Many of the Norcross girls players emerged from the locker room in tears.
But over the last few weeks, the lessons learned from the stinging defeat by Mill Creek are paying off. The top-seeded Blue Devils have won seven straight games since, the latest a 61-38 win over North Gwinnett on Friday in the Region 7-AAAAA tournament semfinals.
"It was the best thing that could have happened to us at that time," Norcross senior Briana Jordan said. "We went into the locker room and we knew we didn't want to have that feeling again."
A renewed focus seems to have helped the Blue Devils, now 23-3 overall heading into today's championship game against Mill Creek.
"It was important to learn what it felt like to lose," Norcross girls coach Angie Hembree said.
"Not that we haven't gotten beat. We have. But a lot of times when you lose, it actually makes you better."
Norcross' aggressive defense made sure that wouldn't happen Friday.
The Blue Devils forced 26 turnovers, with Diamond DeShields (six steals) and Jordan (four steals) leading the way.
The turnovers led to easy points in transition, where freshman standouts DeShields and Kaela Davis flourished. Emaree Cobb added six points off the bench.
DeShields finished with 21 points and seven rebounds and Davis scored 20 and grabbed five boards.
Norcross led 20-11 at halftime as North had more turnovers (15) than field goal attempts (13). The Bulldogs (18-8), who play in the third place game today, fell behind in the third quarter but fought back.
They cut the gap to 29-21 on Shay Fleetwood's basket, and nearly created a turnover in a mad scramble near midcourt.
But Norcross regained possession, DeShields made a 3-pointer and North never recovered.
Annie Wheeler led North with eight points and Ashley Bureau scored six points off the bench. Fleetwood and Brucks added five points each.
Norcross cruised in the fourth quarter, finally opening up a large lead.
"We started off slow, but (North coach) Tony's (Watkins) team did a good job of packing it in," Hembree said. "I'm proud of them though. They picked it up."