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Bulldogs hold off Devils

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

SUWANEE — It was just another night in rough and tumble Region 7-AAAAA Tuesday at North Gwinnett.

The host and No. 8 ranked Bulldogs and visiting Norcross each came off the deck when it looked like the other might take control of the game.

In the end, it was North that came up with the last surge as Clayton Williams scored the last of his game-high 19 points with a 3-pointer from the 36 seconds left to put the Bulldogs ahead to stay en route to a 62-58 victory.

“The guys played hard and made plays when they needed to make them,” North coach Zach Smith said after the Bulldogs (12-3, 5-1) maintained a share of the region lead with Peachtree Ridge. “And it was nice to get the monkey off our backs. It’s been eight years, I think, since we’ve beaten Norcross. ... But we’re less than halfway through the region schedule. We’ve still got a long way to go.”

It looked like the Bulldogs might run away and hide, seemingly breaking open a close game at halftime with a 6-0 run over the first 1:51 to take their biggest lead of the game at 37-27 after a well-executed high-low pass from Ryon Riggins to Kwesi Abakah for a layup.

But Norcross (7-9, 3-3) refused to back down, especially point guard Derrick Herbert and 6-foot-7 wing E. Victor Nickerson.

After battling foul trouble the first, the duo combined for 13 points as the Blue Devils outscored North 19-4 over the next 5:06 to take as much as a 46-40 lead following Jason Croom’s fastbreak layup with 41 seconds left in the quarter.

But Williams connected on a 3-pointer from the left wing with 4 seconds left in the quarter to pull the Bulldogs to within 46-43 heading into the fourth quarter.

It was a preview of things to come, but not before the two teams battled it out in the final frame, exchanging leads three times with two more ties in the final 4:17.

Josiah Moore gave Norcross a 58-57 lead with a pair of free throws with 52.8 seconds left, but Williams made sure that lead wouldn’t last long.

He managed to get free in the left corner when Cyrus Lavant penetrated the lane, and knocked down the 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs back in front to stay at 60-58 with 36 seconds left.

“Big-time players make big-time plays in big situations,” said Williams, who also had five rebounds and five assists. “I knew the team needed it, and thank God I was able to knock down the shot.”

Norcross had a chance to retie the game eight seconds later, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1, and A.J. Clements added the last of his 16 points with two free throws with 6.2 seconds left to seal the win.

“I’m proud of our guys for coming back like we did,” Norcross coach Jesse McMillan said. “They played with a lot of heart. ... It was just two really good teams and it came down to one or two possessions.”

Abakah and Lavant joined Williams and Clements in double figures with 10 points each, while Riggins added six points, five rebounds and six assists.

Chris Bolden led Norcross with 15 points, while Nickerson had 10 points and eight rebounds and Moore chipped in 10 points and seven boards.