DULUTH — It wasn't the cleanest or smoothest performance of the season, but Norcross took control early and eventually took home a 63-51 win over Meadowcreek in the opening round of the Region 7-AAAAA boys basketball tournament.
Norcross, the No. 2 seed, improved to 16-10 overall and will face the winner of tonight's Peachtree Ridge-Collins Hill contest on Friday at 5:30 at Meadowcreek.
Meadowcreek, the No. 7 seed, ends its season at 5-21.
For Norcross head coach Jesse McMillan, it was a matter of getting a relatively inexperienced team on the court in tournament action and building some confidence and momentum.
"We were not necessarily nervous, but we were a little anxious because it's the first time in the playoffs for 10 or 11 of these guys on a varsity roster," said McMillan. "So we tried to make sure they got some experience tonight. We also tried to cater to that in practice and then focused on the little things in our pregame. "
Primarily facing a Meadowcreek 2-3 or 3-2 zone defense, Norcross was patient and jumped out to a 7-2 lead early on.
The Blue Devils increased the margin to double-digits at 15-5 after the first eight minutes.
The lead stayed relatively unchallenged in the second quarter as Norcross took a 27-16 lead into the locker rooms at the half.
In the third quarter, Norcross came out and played well as the Blue Devils outscored Meadowcreek 20-12 to increase their advantage to 19 at 47-28.
Using an aggressive defensive presence on the Meadowcreek offensive end with blocked shots and steals, Norcross was able to get out and run to pick some easy baskets.
Norcross eventually took its largest lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter at 49-28 before Meadowcreek played well down the stretch, actually outscoring the Blue Devils 23-16 in the final quarter.
Sophomore Myles Autry led the way for Norcross with a game-high 17 points while Jalen Davis, another sophomore, added 13.
Freshman Ricky Madison chipped in nine points as eight Blue Devils found the scoring column.
"We wanted to defend on the perimeter and rebound," said McMillan. "Then we wanted to share the ball on offense and be patient. Those were the four things we focused and felt we could be successful."
Norcross was able to get 6-7 junior Harold Givens back on the floor after missing time with a bad elbow. Givens finished with four points and a couple of rebounds as the junior found playing time in both the first and second half.
But senior Jason Croom was still sidelined and didn't play.
"It was good to see Harold back out there even though he didn't practice (Monday)," said McMillan. "But Jason is still recovering and we'll just see how he feels when we get to Friday's game."
Senior Daniel Mensah had 13 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots for Meadowcreek.
Adrian Hicks added nine on three three-pointers and Ridwan Issahaku had eight as the Mustangs had 10 different players score in the game.
North Gwinnett 66, Mountain View 56
Top-seeded North Gwinnett got a game-high 30 points from Chris Bolden as the Bulldogs led wire-to-wire in a 66-56 quarterfinal win over eighth-seeded Mountain View in the Region 7-AAAAA boys' tournament.
A.J. Clements added 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists for North (18-8), which moves on to Friday's 8:30 semifinal at Meadowcreek against the winner of tonight's Mill Creek-Duluth matchup.
Kwesi Abakah tossed in 10 points for the Bulldogs and also came up with seven rebounds and a couple of blocked shots.
North led just 16-13 at the end of the first quarter, but pushed out to a 32-21 lead at halftime.
Mountain View, which ends its season at 2-24, did make a run in the third quarter and cut the North lead to 40-35 with 2:45 left in the period.
But North went on a 9-0 run to close out the third quarter and push the lead back to 49-35.
North eventually led by 17 at 57-40 two minutes into the fourth quarter before Mountain View scored in a late run to cut the final margin to 66-56.
Sean Starke led Mountain View with 18 points and Andre Joseph added 10 for the Bears.