SNELLVILLE — With Chris Bolden watching from the stands after transferring to North Gwinnett in the summer, Norcross needed someone to step up in the Georgia Tech signee's old guard spot.
Brandon Godwin did just that in the defending Class AAAAA state champion's opener Friday, scoring 25 points. But the Blue Devils still came up just a little bit short against South Shore of Brooklyn in the Big Apple vs. Big Peach Battle at Shiloh.
Norcross gave up 18 offensive rebounds and lost in overtime 74-72 after Derrick Herbert -- the Blue Devils' only returning full-time starter -- sent the game into the extra session with a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"We only have three experienced players back and for the rest it was their first taste of big-time basketball on this level," Norcross coach Jesse McMillan said. "We've got to play a little harder and with a little more confidence."
Godwin, a 6-foot junior guard, did his part, starting fast with 12 first-half points and contributing three assists to go with his game-high point total.
"He's a good player," McMillan said of the transfer from New Birth Academy who had attended Norcross in ninth grade. "He plays hard and sets a good example. We need everyone to play at his level."
Undersized against South Shore, Norcross went to its pressure defense exclusively. But when the Blue Devils didn't force a turnover, they were vulnerable inside.
"Our first and second rotations were fine," McMillan said. "After that, we fell apart. It's not as much Xs and Os as playing harder. We have to do that."
But even with the loaded schedule that Norcross plays, the Blue Devils won't play many teams more athletic than South Shore.
Wayne Martin, a 6-foot-7 senior, led the Brooklyn team with 19 points -- 17 after halftime -- and dominated his offensive backboard. Shamiek Sheppard, a 6-foot-5 junior, scored 18 and Terrence Samuel, a 6-foot-4 junior, added 13.
Herbert and sophomore Myles Autry each scored 10 for Norcross, ranked No. 3 in the preseason Class AAAAA coaches poll for Ga.PrepCountry. Harold Givens, a 6-foot-7 junior transfer from Northside of Columbus, had nine points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.
Down 13-8 early, Norcross used a 10-0 run to go up 18-15 at the end of the first quarter and the lead was 30-29 at halftime. But South Shore used a four-point trip aided by a Norcross technical to go up 49-47 heading to the fourth quarter.
Norcross led 58-54 midway in the quarter after an 8-0 run, but South Shore pulled ahead 66-63 on a foul shot with 9.5 seconds left. The Blue Devils called timeout with 5.8 seconds left and had trouble getting into their offense. But Herbert tossed up a long 3-pointer that hit nothing except net, forcing overtime.
South Shore went ahead in the extra session, though, and led by four before Godwin scored with 11 seconds left. Norcross got the ball back with a chance to tie again, but Givens' shot missed.
Norcross has another tough test tonight, facing Long Island Lutheran at approximately 6 p.m. in the second day of the Big Apple vs. Big Peach Battle at Shiloh.
"Hopefully we'll play harder and smarter," McMillan said. "I hope we learned some things."