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Norcross doesn't buckle under Campbell's pressure

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

CARROLLTON -- Campbell's shots started early.

Barely midway through the first quarter, Diamond DeShields needed a new jersey. And she was just one of three Norcross girls basketball players who ended the game cut up from the physical play of the Spartans.

But the tough play and constant pressure didn't wear down Norcross. Rather, the Blue Devils fed off it. Kaela Davis scored 13 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth and Briana Jordan put down 10 of her 16, including 8 of 8 from the free throw line, in the final quarter.

Despite squandering a nine-point halftime lead, Norcross rallied in the fourth for 30 points and a 65-54 win over Campbell to advance to the Class AAAAA Final Four. Norcross will play Westlake at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.

"Our kids kept their composure," Norcross head coach Angie Hembree said. "They did what they were supposed to do.

"The deserve to go to the Final Four."

Six of Davis' and Jordan's fourth-quarter points came in the final minute in very different ways.

Norcross led just 53-50 with two minutes to play, but Davis finally found some space in the Spartans' defense, scoring six straight all on drives to the basket.

"I just took it and tried to score," Davis said. "I didn't want a jump shot."

Jordan followed Davis with six of her own, all from the free throw line. And the senior guard did more than just hit free throws, on multiple trips down the floor she calmly slowed Norcross' press-break into a half-court set.

"We want to cause chaos, not be chaos," Jordan said. "At Norcross we had not played a team as aggressive as they were, that pressed the whole game. I thought we handled it well."

With the exception of the third quarter, Norcross did.

The Blue Devils, built their early lead with steady production, getting baskets from Jordan, Davis, DeShields, Emaree Cobb and two free throws from Alexandra DeMercy in the first quarter. DeMercy scored just three points in the game, but she pulled down six rebounds and handled defensive duties against Campbell's best post player Brittany Hodges. Hodges ended the game with just eight points.

"She did a super job," Hembree said of DeMercy.

But things slowly slipped away in the third quarter as Campbell's pressure forced nine Blue Devil turnovers. DeShields kept Norcross ahead until the final seconds, scoring six of her 16 in the quarter. DeShields led the Blue Devils with 15 rebounds.

Campbell took its first lead of the game since 4-2 on a layup with 25 seconds remaining, but it lasted less than a minute. Justine Nelson started the fourth quarter with a 3 for the Blue Devils that jump-started the offense.

Norcross never trailed again.

"We stepped back up," Hembree said. "That is what I am so proud of, we stepped back up."

Now, the fun continues.

"I have won three AAU national championships and this doesn't compare," Davis said of playing in the state tournament. "It's a great atmosphere."