File Photo Norcross' Diamond DeShields soars past North Gwinnett's Lexie Brown during a game last season.
It took a little longer than either might have expected or preferred, but Buford's girls welcomed back a very important cog in their run of three straight Class AA state championships back to the lineup over the weekend with the return of Andraya Carter.
The 5-foot-8 Tennessee-bound senior had missed the entire regular season to date after suffering a knee injury during the AAU season last spring.
While the Wolves (12-6) have remained a force in Region 6-AA and on the state-wide scene without her, Carter made an immediate impact upon her return with eight points in Friday night's win over Westminster and 10 points in a win over Lovett the following night.
"No doubt, it's great to have her back," Buford coach Gene Durden said. "You can't replace Andraya Carter and what she brings to the table intangible-wise."
But while one of Gwinnett's top girls players is returning from injury, another will be missing from action for a while.
Last season's Daily Post Player of the Year Diamond DeShields of Norcross is expected to be out about three weeks after suffering a cracked bone in her left wrist in the Blue Devils' win over North Gwinnett last Tuesday.
The 6-1 junior, who is leading the county in scoring at 21.8 points per game, played the remainder of that game using only her right hand, but did not play in Norcross' 62-35 rout of Center Point (Ala.) at the Girls Night Out showcase event Saturday at Starr's Mill High School.
The Blue Devils had plenty of other players to step up in DeShields' absence, such as Shayla Cooper (20 points, five rebounds), Patrice Butler (16 points, eight boards), Jasmine Kemp (10 rebounds) and Bri Williams (eight assists).
And Norcross coach Angie Hembree is confident the Blue Devils will continue to hold down the fort until DeShields' return, which is expected to be sometime around the Region 7-AAAAA tournament next month.
"(DeShields is) a tough kid, but she was in a lot of pain," Hembree said. "(The rest of the team) did a great job of stepping up (on Saturday)."
DeShields wasn't the only player injured in that game with North as Bulldogs starting guard Ariel Johnson suffered a concussion and a cut above her nose after taking an elbow to the face.
Like DeShields, Johnson played later in the game, but sat out North's two weekend games -- both wins. However, she was cleared by doctors to practice Monday and is expected to play when North travels to Duluth tonight.
More injury updates
The injury news is also mixed for a couple of important players on Gwinnett boys teams.
Shiloh post Trayvon Reed played a few minutes in Friday's win over Dacula after sitting out the previous two games with tendinitis in his knee.
And with the Generals (15-2) not scheduled to play again until Thursday, when they travel to Orlando, Fla., to take on Orlando Christian in the first round of the Montverde Academy Invitational, coach Kim Rivers said Monday the 7-foot sophomore should see more minutes this weekend.
"He played sparingly Friday, and didn't do too bad," Rivers said of Reed. "(The five-day break between games) is definitely to our advantage. So, we'll put him in full throttle (against Orlando Christian) and see what happens."
Meanwhile, Peachtree Ridge guard Cole Rives did not return after landing awkwardly on his leg while defending North Gwinnett's Chris Bolden during the Lions' loss to the Bulldogs last Friday.
Rives, who finished with a team-high 18 points that night, was not expected to play in the Lions game with Centennial the following night and his status for tonight's game with Norcross is still unclear.
Saturday's 57-43 win over Archer improved Parkview's girls to a perfect 20-0 on the season, and continued their regular-season dominance over the past five seasons.
The win was the Panthers' 28th straight dating back to their last regular-season loss Jan. 8 of last year against Brookwood.
And while the postseason hasn't gone the way they would have preferred, the Panthers have been next to unbeatable in the regular season since the 2007-08 season, rolling up a 112-5 record in regular-season games in that time.
A Walker in the park
Rebecca Walker's huge night in the Brookwood girls' 51-33 win over Grayson last Friday was one for the record books.
The 6-2 junior's 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocked shots not only marked her first career triple double at Brookwood, but also the first by a Broncos player in Scott Terry's 11 seasons as coach.
Her 10 blocks also broke her own school single-game record of nine, which set first set against Dacula on Dec. 10, 2010 and matched a week before Friday's triple-double, when she had 19 points, 13 rebounds and nine blocks in a win over Central Gwinnett.
Walker's 10 blocks in last Friday's game also moved her past the 200 blocked shot mark for her career.