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Norcross shows more aggression, rallies past Peachtree Ridge

Staff Photo: John Bohn Norcross guard James Sanders (12) grabs a rebound over Peachtree Ridge's Sydney Scurlark (21) during the second quarter of Tuesday's game.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Norcross guard James Sanders (12) grabs a rebound over Peachtree Ridge's Sydney Scurlark (21) during the second quarter of Tuesday's game.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Norcross guard Brandon Goodwin (4) grabs a defensive rebound against Peachtree Ridge guard Jordan Copps Jr. (23) during the second quarter of Tuesday's game.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Norcross guard James Sanders (12) reaches for a defensive rebound between Peachtree Ridge players Davon Hill (20) and Sydney Scurlark (21) during the first quarter of Tuesday's game.

SUWANEE -- Perhaps the best term to describe the tempo from Norcross' boys in Tuesday night's Region 7-AAAAA game at Peachtree Ridge is passive-aggressive.

The Blue Devils showed too much of the former for coach Jesse McMillan's liking through the first three quarters.

But they displayed plenty of the latter in the second half, rallying from as much as a 13-point deficit late in the third quarter to post a come-from-behind 61-56 victory.

Brandon Goodwin scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the second half-- nine of which came during a fourth quarter in which Norcross (12-7, 8-1) outscored Peachtree Ridge by a 23-7 count.

Meanwhile, Goodwin and Derrick Herbert led a strong defensive effort in the second half, forcing six of the Lions' 17 turnovers in the fourth quarter to help the Blue Devils overcome their sluggish start.

"I just felt like we wanted it more than (Peachtree Ridge in the fourth quarter)," said Herbert, who added eight rebounds, four assists and two steals to go along with 10 points. "We came out kind of passive. We just had to be more aggressive.

"I commend them, though. They came out strong. Their back-ups came ready to play, and they were motivated. We came out kind of sluggish, but we picked it up in the fourth quarter."

Norcross' rally spoiled what had been a heroic effort from a Peachtree Ridge (11-9, 5-4) team missing both members of its starting backcourt -- Cole Rives to a sprained ankle and Benny Johnson after receiving two technical fouls in last Saturday's win over Centennial.

And with staring post Brandon Jack picking up two personal fouls in the first 42 seconds of the game, it would've been easy for the Lions to melt.

Yet, reserves like Rawlings Okivie (seven points, three rebounds, three assists, two blocked shots), Edwin Efezohkae (10 points, three rebounds, four assists) and Brian McGowen (10 points, six rebounds and a block) displayed plenty of poise to fill the void nicely.

And with that trio and normal starting guard Cole Romaguera helping set up Jordan Capps on his way to a game-high 20 points, the Lions roared out of the gate, never trailing in the first half and using a 12-4 run early in the second quarter to build a 27-20 lead by halftime.

"I felt like we'd be able to play with them," Peachtree Ridge coach Keith Arrington said. "I know Benny and Cole (Rives) are important parts of our team, but we've got some good players. We've just got to figure out how to finish the deal."

It looked like the Lions would finish the deal Tuesday after McGowan's drive down the right wing gave them their biggest lead of the game at 47-34 with 1:08 left in the third quarter.

That's when McMillan began to take his team to task about being more aggressive, especially on the offensive end.

"Our first adjustment was to play for the score, not for the foul, around the rim," McMillan said. "And then to pick up our defensive intensity. I thought we gave up too many open jumpers. That's what we focused on at halftime, and fortunately, in the fourth quarter."

It was in the final frame that McMillan's game plan finally came to fruition, even with Peachtree Ridge holding a seemingly solid 49-38 lead.

Goodwin got things started by knocking down a 3-pointer from the top of the key 13 seconds into the fourth quarter, and then pulled down a defensive rebound and drove the floor before dishing off to Harold Givens for a layup to ignite a 9-2 run that pulled Norcross to within 51-47 after Jason Croom's foul line jumper with 5:19 to play.

It looked like disaster may have struck when Croom left the game minutes later with a shoulder injury and did not return. He will be evaluated today, though neither he nor McMillan believed the injury to be long-term.

But in Croom's absence, the rest of the Blue Devils kept up the defensive pressure.

"That fourth quarter is a pretty big step for us because Jason Croom is normally our defensive enforcer," McMillan said. "He went out and then it looked like we picked up our intensity. ... A younger team might have wilted."

Capps gave Peachtree Ridge a moment of respite with a transition layup to push the Lions' lead back to 53-47 with 4:39 left, but Anthony Autry countered with a driving layup down the lane, followed by a steal and layup, to pull Norcross to within 53-51 with 4:11 left.

After Capps hit 1 of 2 from the line, Givens answered by drawing a foul and hitting two free throws, and Herbert tapped in his own missed shot on Norcross' next trip down the floor to give the Blue Devils their first lead at 55-54 with 2:33 left.

And they kept Peachtree Ridge off the scoreboard until a pair of late free throws by Efezohkae with less than a second left, with Goodwin hitting six straight from the line in the final 39.1 seconds to salt the game away for Norcross.

Goodwin finished the game 11 of 12 from the line, part of an 18-for-22 free-throw-shooting night for the Blue Devils.

Croom and Givens also contributed to the win with 12 points apiece.

Norcross girls 62, Peachtree Ridge 24

Playing in their first region game since losing Diamond DeShields for three weeks with a fractured wrist, the Blue Devils (16-2, 9-0) rolled past the Lions behind 15 points from Patrice Butler.

Shayla Cooper added 12 points, while Jasmine Kemp chipped in nine for Norcross.

Mahrie Bowman led Peachtree Ridge with 10 points.