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Norcross showcase to feature state-title rematch

File Photo Norcross' Diamond DeShields soars past North Gwinnett's Lexie Brown during a game last season.

File Photo Norcross' Diamond DeShields soars past North Gwinnett's Lexie Brown during a game last season.

The opening night of the Lady Blue Tip-Off will feature a rematch of last season's Class AAAAA state championship game. But that is hardly the only intriguing contest during the three-day event at Norcross that will get the girls high school basketball season off to a fast start.

Three of the teams that made the AAAAA Final Four last March are participating, as well as the AAAA champion, the AA runner-up and a semifinalist in AAA.

The event begins Wednesday, with two-time defending AAAAA champion Norcross playing 2011 runner-up McEachern in the final game at approximately 8 p.m. Mill Creek, which lost to McEachern in the semifinals last season, will play quarterfinalist Milton in the opener at 5 p.m. That will be followed by AA runner-up GAC against Wheeler at approximately 6:30 p.m.

There are also three games Thursday beginning at 5 p.m. and three more Saturday starting at 4 p.m.

Norcross will play Columbia, which reached the AAA semifinals last season, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday and face AAAA defending champion Fayette County in the final game of the event at approximately 7 p.m. on Saturday.

The Blue Devils are again led by Diamond DeShields, one of the top juniors in the nation and the reigning Gatorade player of the year in Georgia. Norcross graduated two regulars from a year ago, but is again loaded with size and talent.

Last season's state title was the fifth for coach Angie Hembree. She won three at Collins Hill before becoming a college assistant. She returned to high school coaching four years ago at Norcross.

The Lady Blue Tip-Off is just one of the highlights of an interesting first couple of weeks for the high school season.

Class A champion Wesleyan, trying to be the first team to win five straight state titles since the Hart County girls won six in a row from 1989-94, will host its own Turkey Tip-Off for the first time Nov. 21-23.

Joining Wesleyan in the tournament are Brookwood, Southwest DeKalb, Hardaway, Hillgrove, Mays, Douglas County and Lovett. Douglas County reached the Class AAAA semifinals last season, while Hillgrove reached the quarterfinals in AAAAA.

Wesleyan, which had just one senior last year, opens the season on Saturday in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at Berkmar. Coach Jan Azar's team will play Spain Park of Hoover, Ala., at 4 p.m. in the second of four games.

The other games in the event are Westside of Augusta against Thomasville, Sandy Creek vs. Jonesboro and Dutchtown against Morgan County.

Other events getting the season started include the Parkview Tip-Off, the Lanier Thanksgiving Tournament, the Under Armour Classic at Archer and the Cobb-Gwinnett Challenge at Campbell. All of those feature both girls and boys games.

The Parkview tournament marks the debut of Tony Watkins as the Panthers' girls coach. He replaced Mike McCoy, who took a coaching job in Mississippi.

Parkview will play Lassiter in the opening round on Thursday. The tournament continues on Saturday and Nov. 21-22.

The Lanier Thanksgiving Tournament is Saturday and Nov. 21-22, while the Under Armour Classic is Saturday and Nov. 21. The Cobb-Gwinnett Challenge is Saturday.