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Norcross girls rally to win championship in Myrtle Beach

MYRTLE BEACH -- A semifinal upset a year ago cost the Norcross girls basketball team a chance at the Crescent Bank Holiday Invitational title. The Blue Devils made it to the championship game this time and didn't let the opportunity for the big trophy slip away.

Down by 11 points, Norcross rallied behind most valuable player Diamond DeShields and edged South Carolina power Spring Valley 54-53 on Thursday for the early Christmas present it wanted.

"I was really proud of the girls, that's a tough four games in a row," Norcross girls coach Angie Hembree said. "We had some kids a little bit beat up and they hung in there. We were down 11 and came back huge. The kids played well all tournament long. I'm proud of their effort."

DeShields, considered one of the top juniors in the nation, scored 19 of her game-best 27 points after intermission as the Blue Devils (8-2) kept Spring Valley (9-1) from winning a second straight Crescent Bank title.

The game ended with DeShields dribbling out the clock after Spring Valley had drawn within a point on a basket by Shaquita Walker with about 10 seconds remaining.

Spring Valley came in ranked No. 2 nationally by Max Preps, No. 4 by ESPNU and No. 7 by USA Today, while the only listing for Norcross after losses to McEachern and Hoover, Ala., was No. 36 by ESPNU.

But DeShields wouldn't let the Blue Devils, two-time defending Georgia state champs, lose. After a cool first half, she was 10-for-20 for the floor and hit four 3-pointers. Her last gave Norcross a 50-45 lead with about three minutes left and the Blue Devils hung on despite not getting another basket.

Shayla Cooper, also named to the all-tournament team, hit two foul shots with 2:02 remaining to push the lead to seven points. But Spring Valley kept cutting into the advantage as Norcross made just two of its final six tries from the foul line and finished 10 of 18 for the game.

Spring Valley and Norcross were favored to meet in the title game last year, but the Blue Devils were upset 56-52 by Troy of Fullerton, Calif., in the semifinals. Norcross bounced back to edge Wesleyan in overtime 56-52 for third place last season and coach Angie Hembree's team was determined to win the trophy this year.

Norcross, though, shot just 32 percent and committed 12 turnovers in the first half while falling behind 30-21.

The Spring Valley lead was 43-32 in the second half when Norcross went on a 15-2 run to go up on DeShields' basket with about four minutes left.

Norcross committed only four turnovers in the second half and had 10 steals in the game, four by DeShields. With Cooper and Jasmine Kemp leading the way, the Blue Devils had a 38-25 rebounding edge.

Cooper was the only other double-figure scorer for Norcross, getting 10 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. Kemp also had nine rebounds for the Blue Devils and scored six points, one less than Tori Carter.

Asia Dozier led Spring Valley with 17 points, 12 coming in the first half. Xylina McDaniel had 16 points before fouling out and Walker scored 12. Dozier has signed with South Carolina and McDaniel with North Carolina.