Devils rally for win

NORCROSS -- Faced with some unfamiliar situations, Norcross' boys basketball team was in need of some composure in Saturday night's game against Thomas Jefferson.

After briefly losing it in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils quickly regained it, especially sophomore Chris Bolden and senior Jeremy Lamb.

The pair combined for 39 points, and each hit huge 3-point baskets and free throws in the final 1:05 to help lift No. 3 Norcross to a 69-64 home win over the visitors from Brooklyn, N.Y., in the Atlanta National Invitational Showcase.

"We got a lot of questions this week about, 'Why do you schedule games like this,'" Norcross coach Jesse McMillan said after the Blue Devils (14-2) downed the Orange Wave (15-7), who came in ranked No. 4 among public schools and No. 7 overall in New York City. "That's why. Against a team like this, you have to do some things you're not prepared for.

"We lost our composure a little bit, but that happens. We eventually got it back."

Both teams had tests to their composure after Norcross ran out to a quick 9-2 lead just 1:37 after the opening tip, only to have Thomas Jefferson answer with a 10-2 run over the final 3:08 of the first quarter to pull even at 16-16.

The two teams then traded leads five more times with four ties over the next two quarters to enter the final frame with Norcross clinging to a 49-48 lead.

That's when Thomas Jefferson cranked up its fullcourt press, forcing the Blue Devils into turnovers in four of their first five possessions.

The Orange Wave turned those miscues into seven straight points, capped by a pair of Dave Coley free throws, to build their biggest lead of the game at 55-49 with 5:27 remaining.

"There was about a three or four-minute stretch where we started throwing the ball all over the gym," McMillan said. "But that was it. We called a timeout and got settled down."

Still, Norcross had to battle yet another demon -- missed free throws.

Though they got to the line seven times over the next 2:19 to get back into the game, the Blue Devils couldn't fully capitalize on the opportunity.

A single free throw each from Malcolm McDonald and Josaiah Moore, two more from Bolden and a transition layup from Marty Johnson helped Norcross pull even at 55-55 with 4:21 left. But Norcross missed its next seven attempts from the line over the following 1:18, including Bolden missing both shots on a technical on Thomas Jefferson's Eric Turpin.

But he would redeem himself in a big way after matching 3s from Lamb and Coley tied the game 62-62 with less than a minute remaining.

Lamb penetrated toward the foul line before dishing to a wide-open Bolden in the left corner.

Not even thinking about the earlier misses, the 6-foot-2 sophomore let fly with a jumper that hit nothing but net, putting Norcross in front 65-62 with 32 seconds left.

"I just took it one shot at a time," said Bolden, who finished with a team-high 20 points, plus four rebounds and two steals. "It was just like in practice. Just shoot it and don't worry about anything else."

That strategy served Bolden well again after he came down with a rebound off a Thomas Jefferson miss with 11.2 seconds left and was fouled as he calmly sank both free throws to push the lead to 67-62.

Coley then went the length of the floor for a layup to cut the lead to 67-64 with 7 seconds left, but Lamb, who finished with 19 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots, sealed the win for Norcross with two more free throws with 5.9 seconds left.

Johnson joined Bolden and Lamb in double figures with 11 points, plus a game-high six assists, while McDonald added seven points and 10 rebounds for Norcross.

Coley led all scorers with 23 points, while Davonte Grace added 14 points and four assists for Thomas Jefferson.