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DeShields returns, Norcross girls advance; North girls also move on

SUWANEE -- Showing the effects of a lengthy layoff and still wearing a soft cast on her left wrist, Diamond DeShields missed her first six shots Tuesday.

The rust soon wore off, though, and Norcross was back to playing like a team capable of vying for a third straight Class AAAAA state championship.

DeShields hit four straight shots after the slow start and finished with 10 points, seven assists, seven rebounds and three blocked shots as the Blue Devils secured a return to the state tournament with a 52-38 victory over Mountain View.

The victory at Peachtree Ridge advanced Norcross (21-5) to the Region 7-AAAAA semfinals on Friday at Meadowcreek, where the Blue Devils will face the winner of tonight's Mill Creek-Collins Hill game.

"It's good to have Diamond back and it's good to make it to the state tournament," Norcross coach Angie Hembree said. "She's a phenomenal player and we've missed her. Now we have to start clicking together. We're not a one player team."

Shayla Cooper, like DeShields a junior, had 21 points and seven rebounds, while Patrice Butler had 11 points and seven rebounds and fellow senior Tori Carter scored seven points.

But there is no question that it is DeShields who makes the Blue Devils go, as she supplies on-court leadership along with her arsenal of amazing skills.

DeShields suffered a fracture in her left wrist against North Gwinnett on Jan. 17 and missed the last seven games of the regular season. Without her, the Blue Devils lost at Mill Creek and in the rematch at North, falling behind the Bulldogs in the region standings.

Norcross slipped to No. 4 in the Class AAAAA coaches poll as well as a No. 2 seed in the region. More concerning, it wasn't known when DeShields would return to the lineup.

DeShields visited the doctor Monday and again Tuesday, finally getting the OK to return to action. But the crowd at Peachtree Ridge wasn't certain about DeShields' status until she entered the game against Mountain View with 5:22 remaining in the first quarter.

Norcross already led 6-2 thanks to 3-pointers by Carter and Butler. But as DeShields struggled with her shot and used her left hand gingerly, Mountain View closed to 8-7 when Kelsey Hutchins' hit three free throws after being fouled behind the arc with four seconds left in the first quarter.

Then the Blue Devils and DeShields took over. DeShields hit three straight shots as the Blue Devils expanded their lead to 25-10 at halftime with a 14-0 run.

Down 36-21 at the end of the third quarter, No. 7 seed Mountain View (11-15) cut a 21-point deficit down to 12 with 2:18 remaining. But DeShields returned to the game and there would be no late-game miracle for the Bears, who have just one senior and played four freshmen.

D'Andra Pringle led Mountain View with nine points and Hutchins had eight. Iris Walker and Arianna Williams each scored six points, with Williams also grabbing six rebounds.

North Gwinnett 71, Meadowcreek 27

Peyton Whitted had 16 points and eight rebounds as No. 3-ranked North Gwinnett routed Meadowcreek 71-27 to advance to the semifinals in the Region 7-AAAAA tournament.

Ariel Johnson scored 11 points and Lexie Brown had eight points, nine rebounds, eight assists and six steals for the No. 1-seeded Bulldogs (22-2).

North Gwinnett, which will play the Duluth-Peachtree Ridge winner on Friday at Meadowcreek, scored the game's first 10 points and increased a 19-7 first-quarter lead to 38-10 at halftime. The Bulldogs were up 51-19 going into the shortened fourth quarter.

Freddie Banks scored eight points and Angel Alexander had seven for No. 8 seed Meadowcreek (5-19).