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Free throws invaluable for Norcross girls

Norcross' Kaela Davis (23) is clotheslined by Marietta's Keyma Hayes (20) as she tries to get a rebound Wednesday.

Norcross' Kaela Davis (23) is clotheslined by Marietta's Keyma Hayes (20) as she tries to get a rebound Wednesday.

NORCROSS -- Norcross just needed some extra practice.

Throughout the week, head coach Angie Hembree would stop practice and make her players shoot free throws. And that was not enough work for Diamond DeShields.

Following Tuesday's practice, DeShields stayed after and shot 30 more. Of those final 30, she missed just one. Her percentage improved Wednesday.

The freshmen hit all 11 of her free throws on a night she struggled to find baskets in the paint.

"I just had a hot hand," DeShields said.

And she wasn't alone. Norcross missed just five free throws against Marietta, making 22 of 27, while Marietta made just 4 of 14. Free throws alone were enough to give Norcross the 65-56 win and put the host Blue Devils into the quarterfinals of the Class AAAAA state basketball tournament. Norcross plays Campbell on Saturday at West Georgia.

Both teams began Wednesday's game shooting well. The teams combined for six 3-pointers in the first quarter, with Norcross' Kaela Davis and Marietta's Courtney Sprague hitting two each. Sprague, who hit the game-winner to beat Parkview on Saturday hit five 3s on the night to lead Marietta with 19 points. Davis hit three.

But it was the second quarter when Norcross pulled away. Norcross went on runs of 11-0 and 8-0 in the quarter, sparked by the transition game. DeShields scored 11 of her game-high 25 in the quarter, five points coming from the free throw line. At one point, Norcross led by 21 at 41-20.

"The first part of the game, coach (Hembree) said we played flawlessly," DeShields said.

Marietta answered in the second half, cutting the deficit to 11 at one point in the third quarter. Norcross' offense sputtered and Marietta hit two of its eight 3s in the quarter, with another coming from Sprague. DeShields hit all three of Norcross' field goals, but she had to work for everyone. Many of her seven baskets came off offensive rebounds. She pulled down 18 rebounds in the game for a double-double, but that didn't subdue her frustration about her offense.

"I was trying to twist and avoid contact too much," DeShields said. "I should have gone at them to try to draw the foul."

Her free throw shooting backs up her analysis.

In the final quarter, Norcross just hung on. Marietta cut the lead to as little as nine, but Norcross always had an answer. And it always came from the free throw line. Norcross hit 10 of 13 in the fourth quarter, led by four from Briana Jordan. Jordan ended the game with 14 points, followed by Davis with 13. Dearica Hamby scored 16 for Marietta, with 12 coming in the fourth quarter.

"We have to learned to play to win, especially in the final quarter," DeShields said. "It's not intentional, we just lost that sense of urgency.

"We know there is no room for mistakes."