Staff Photo: John Bohn Parkview's Erika Joseph (33) drives the ball against Norcross defemder Bri Williams (13) during the fourth quarter of a state Class AAAAA quarter final girls basketball game played Saturday at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton. Norcross defeated Parkview 63-46.
CARROLLTON -- When a dazed Diamond DeShields headed toward the bench with a trail of blood left on the court behind her less than two minutes into the game, Norcross fans couldn't help being concerned.
The Blue Devils lost two games at the end of the regular season when their star was out with a broken wrist and they were playing unbeaten Parkview in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
But instead of being worried, the Norcross players were even more determined.
"When she got pushed and then I saw the blood, I was mad," Shayla Cooper said. "You can't do that to one of us. No way that we were going to lose this game."
Although she needed stitches after the game, DeShields ended up missing just a few minutes following the first-quarter injury and the defending two-time state champion Norcross girls rolled back into the Final Four with a 63-46 victory Saturday at West Georgia.
DeShields finished with 17 points, six rebounds and two assists, while fellow junior Cooper had 14 points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
Now the Blue Devils (26-5) have to face another unbeaten team in the semifinals on Thursday in the Arena at Gwinnett Center. No. 1-ranked McEachern, which defeated Norcross on Nov. 16 in the first game of the season, advanced with a 69-32 quarterfinal victory over Harrison on Saturday at Fort Valley State.
DeShields was hurt when she was fouled going up for a lay-in and the right side of her head was cut by a camera lens as she fell to the floor.
"I didn't know what happened at first," said DeShields, who suffered a cut over her eye and on her ear. "Then I saw the blood and got a little light-headed. But when I went down on the court, I got up as soon as I could so know one thought that I wouldn't be able to play."
"She got pushed," Norcross coach Angie Hembree said. "It was a rough game, especially at the start. But we withstood everything that happened. I'm really proud of everyone."
No. 3-ranked Norcross put away No. 2 Parkview (30-1) with an 11-0 run in the third quarter after the Panthers got within 33-30 on a 3-pointer by Helena Poungue. The Blue Devils led 47-32 going into the final quarter and put the victory away at the foul line as Parkview, which never quit, tried to foul its way back into the game.
Tori Carter, a senior headed to UNC-Charlotte, had 13 points for Norcross and sophomore point guard Bri Williams handed out four assists. Patrice Butler, a Furman signee, added seven points and East Tennessee State recruit Jasmine Kemp had five rebounds.
Parkview got 10 points and nine rebounds from Erika Joseph, who has signed with Western Carolina. Genesis Perrymond scored nine points and McKenna Pouengue hit two of Parkview's five 3-pointers en route to scoring eight.
Colby Meeks, one of four sophomores who contributed for Norcross, hit two foul shots filling in for DeShields and the Blue Devils increased their lead from 6-2 to 16-6 after the talented DeShields returned. But the reigning Georgia player of the year drew her second foul and coach Tony Watkins' Panthers scored six straight points to close within 16-12 despite nine first-quarter turnovers.
DeShields had a basket and an assist to start the second quarter and Norcross was back up by 10 at 26-16 when Carter hit a 3-pointer. But Parkview finished the second quarter with an 8-3 run to pull within 29-24 at halftime.
Carter had 10 points in the first half to lead all scorers, while Cooper had six points and six rebounds by intermission.
Parkview outscored Norcross 11-4 to get within 51-43 midway in the fourth quarter, but that was as close as the Panthers could get. The Blue Devils ended up going to the foul line 39 times and hitting 26. DeShields was 11 of 12.
"We don't have as much talent as last year, but I think we are even more determined," Cooper said. "Our sophomores are really contributing."
"I'll take heart over talent any day," DeShields said. "This team wants to win. We won't let anything stop us."
Parkview, which had just three seniors, appears to have a bright future. But it is Norcross, led by DeShields, that's headed to the Arena at Gwinnett Center for the Final Four.