NORCROSS -- Chad Pittman is only part way through his second season as Duluth girls coach, but he quickly found out just how tough it is in Region 7-AAAAA.
Last season offered an introduction. This season has been a confirmation.
Duluth is 9-2 in non-region games, both losses coming to state-ranked teams. But the Wildcats are 1-3 in loaded 7-AAAAA, where Norcross, Mill Creek and North Gwinnett have all established themselves as among the Georgia's elite programs.
The Wildcats lost just 51-50 on Tuesday at Mill Creek, a Final Four team last season. But there would be no near-miss against Norcross on Friday night.
The Blue Devils, who won the past two Class AAAAA state titles, rolled to a 78-44 victory with a dominant performance worthy of a team ranked No. 13 in the national ESPN Fab 50 after its title at the Crescent Bank Holiday Classic in Myrtle Beach before Christmas.
Diamond DeShields had 19 points before sitting out the final quarter, while Shayla Cooper scored 15 and Tori Carter added 10 points in curtailed duty for the Blue Devils, who are 4-0 in the region and 10-2 overall.
"Against Norcross, you're fighting the mystique as well as the all the talent," Pittman said. "And that is a very good, well-coached team.
"They're thoroughbreds. Once they get going, they're off to the races."
Duluth trailed just 6-4 past the midway point of the first quarter before Norcross established control with a 15-2 run that put the Blue Devils up 21-6 by the middle of the second quarter.
The halftime lead for Norcross was 34-20 as DeShields had 10 points and Cooper nine. Then it got worse for Duluth, which was down by 62-33 by the end of the third quarter.
All 12 Norcross players scored. Jasmine Kemp had six rebounds to go with six points and Sydney Marshall scored six off the bench as the Blue Devils stretched their winning streak to eight.
Joi Jones tried to keep the game from completely getting out of control, scoring 10 of her 14 points in the second half for Duluth. Tajai Pearson had eight points and six rebounds. Katie Powell, who had scored 24 against Mill Creek, had six points.
The only real highlight for Duluth came after the game. Wildcats assistant Autumn Sam received a state championship pendent from Norcross for her work with the Blue Devils last season.
No. 2-ranked Norcross will play at Collins Hill today in a Region 7-AAAAA game originally scheduled for December. Because of that switch, the non-region girls game with Southwest DeKalb was moved to Jan. 28.
The Blue Devils only losses are to McEachern, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA and No. 4 nationally, and Alabama power Hoover, No. 10 in the ESPN ratings.
Duluth, which made the state tournament as the region's No. 4 seed last season, will get Norcross, North Gwinnett and Mill Creek at home the next time, but they are still difficult assignment.
"Can it get any better?" Pittman said when asked about the region. "I'm afraid it might be this season."
Norcross boys 58, Duluth 47
Derrick Herbert had 14 points, Harold Givens and Myles Autry each scored 11 and the Norcross boys defeated Duluth 58-47 to improve to 4-0 in 7-AAAAA and 6-6 overall after starting the season 0-4 with a rugged schedule.
Duluth, 1-3 in the region and 4-11 overall, trailed just 15-12 after the first quarter. But Norcross pulled out to a 32-21 halftime lead and was up 51-30 going into the final quarter.
Eddie Clary scored a game-high 16 points for Duluth before fouling out in the fourth quarter. Zach Erwin had 10 points and Michael Randle added nine.
It was the first of four Region 7-AAAAA games in eight days for Norcross, the defending state champs. The Blue Devils follow tonight's game at Collins Hill by playing at Meadowcreek on Tuesday and hosting No. 4-ranked Mill Creek next Friday.