Photo: Brian Kamer South Gwinnett's Simeon Dennis (2) drives for a layup with Norcross guard Myles Autry (23) defending during Saturday's game at Greater Atlanta Christian.
Photo: Brian Kamer Norcross point guard Kalen Hawkins (1) blocks a slam dunk attempt by a South Gwinnett's Qiydar Davis (24) during Saturday's game at Greater Atlanta Christian.
Photo: Brian Kamer South Gwinnett's Logan Adams (44) blocks the shot of Norcross forward Ricky Madison (25) during Saturday's game at Greater Atlanta Christian.
NORCROSS -- A couple of heavyweights took to the hardwood at the 2011 Greater Atlanta Christian Basketball Showcase and the game didn't disappoint.
South Gwinnett and Norcross, ranked No. 6 and 8, respectively, in Class AAAAA, went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes and the Comets finally pulled out a 69-67 win on this Saturday in early December.
Come late February or early March, they could meet again in front of a packed house and with a lot more on the line.
But, for now, seeing this much talent on the court was an early holiday gift.
South (3-3) jumped out to an early 11-2 lead four minutes into the game.
But it didn't take Norcross (0-4) long to answer and eventually take a 14-13 lead in the opening minute of the second quarter.
In fact, Norcross outscored South 27-13 after the hot start for the Comets and the Blue Devils took a 29-26 lead at the half.
Norcross stretch that lead to seven at 52-45 to end the third quarter, thanks primarily to Brandon Goodwin and Harold Givens combining for 16 of the Blue Devils' 23 points in the period.
However, South's best basketball was yet to come -- a little surprising since the Comets had played a double-overtime game against Archer on Friday night.
South went on a 17-3 run to take a 62-55 lead with three minutes to go in the game.
But Norcross wasn't finished and eventually closed to within 65-64 on a three-pointer from James Sanders and a free throw from Myles Autry with 1:18 left.
That's when South's Simeon Dennis took over and closed out the game for the Comets with four free throws over the final 18 seconds.
A last-second three-pointer from Autry narrowed the gap to two points at the buzzer.
"We play a top-heavy schedule early in the season, so it's really tough to tell where we are right now," said South head coach Scott Bracco. "We play a tough non-region schedule and our region is tough, so it's still early to know exactly where we stand. But I was happy with the way we responded tonight.
"Coming off a double-overtime game last night and playing a 4 o'clock game today without any energy in the building in front of a small crowd, it was very tough at the beginning. But we learned something tonight that we can close out games, which is something we haven't done this season very well."
Dennis led the way for South with a game-high 28 points that included four three-pointers and 8 of 10 from the free throw line, including 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter.
Qiydar Davis added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Comets, including a three-pointer and 6 of 7 from the charity stripe.
Logan Adams had nine points and eight rebounds for South.
For Norcross, it was a fourth straight loss to start the season. But that doesn't concern head coach Jesse McMillan, who watched the 2010-11 team go 6-9 to start the season and finished with the school's fourth state title.
"I was pretty pleased with the way we played tonight and how we were aggressive, how we made some shots and fought to the end," McMillan said. "We found out a few minutes before the game that our starting point guard, Derrick Herbert, had a knee bothering him and couldn't go. So I thought the guys did really well adjusting to that.
"We're using these first non-region games to see where we are. If we were concerned about wins and losses this early in the season, we wouldn't schedule these games. We have played two nationally ranked teams and two state-ranked teams in our first four games. We're learning more from these close losses than we would blowing some other teams off the court."
Goodwin paced the Norcross attack with 21 points that included five three-pointers.
Jason Croom added 12 points and Givens had 10 for the Blue Devils.