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DeShields scores 29 as defending champ Norcross rolls

NORCROSS -- The Archer girls made the Class AAAAA state tournament in just their third season, but the Tigers' reward was a meeting with powerful Norcross in the first round.

The result was predictable.

"Norcross showed why it is the two-time defending state champion and Diamond DeShields showed why she is the best player in the country." Archer coach Ryan Lesniak said.

DeShields had 29 points, nine steals and six rebounds as the host Blue Devils rolled to an 85-36 victory Friday night over Archer, which has just one senior and no one 6-feet tall.

Norcross, meanwhile, has four starters at least 6-1, three NCAA Division I signees who are seniors and top junior prospects DeShields and Shayla Cooper.

Cooper had 21 points and Norcross, 24-5 and ranked No. 3 in the state coaches poll, dominated the backboards with Patrice Butler and Jasmine Kemp each getting 10 rebounds.

"I'm proud of how hard we played, which we've done all season," Lesniak said. "But there is really nothing you can do when the other team is that tall and that talented. There ability to score on stickbacks is unreal."

Norcross will host No. 10 Marietta (24-4) on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the second round. Marietta, the No. 2 seed from Region 5-AAAAA, defeated Roswell 69-30.

Illustrating the height discrepancy, Archer (18-11) conceded the opening tip to Norcross by having 5-6 Danicka Brown jump against the 6-2 DeShields and putting no one around the center circle.

But the Tigers, the No. 4 seed from Region 8-AAAAA, were tied with the Region 7-AAAAA champs midway through the first quarter and down by just six points at the midpoint of the second. Two first-half streaks showed the Blue Devils' superiority, though.

Turning up the defensive heat, Norcross ran off 12 straight points in the first quarter and 14 in the second. When Cooper completed a four-point play just before the buzzer, the Blue Devils led 43-21 at halftime.

DeShields had 16 first-half points, 12 in the opening quarter, and Cooper scored 13, with nine in the second.

But the best for Norcross and worst for Archer was still to come.

The Blue Devils scored the first 16 points of the second half and led 66-29 going into a shortened fourth quarter.

DeShields had eight points in the third quarter and five more early in the fourth before taking a permanent seat with the other Norcross starters. Included in her 29 points was a trio of 3-pointers.

"We're playing well, but in the state tournament it is just about surviving and advancing," Blue Devils coach Angie Hembree said.

Tori Carter joined DeShields and Cooper in double figures with 10 points and Butler scored seven to go with her 10 rebounds. Sierra Butler had six points off the bench, while Kemp and Sydney Marshall each scored five. Bri Williams had five assists and the Blue Devils harassed Archer into 22 steals.

Freshman Madison Newby and sophomore Kayla Rogers each scored nine for Archer, with Newby hitting a trio of 3-pointers. Sophomore Alesha Mann had six points, as did Brown, Archer's only senior.

"Archer is very young," Hembree said. "They'll be good down the road."