Staff Photo: John Bohn Norcross' Bri Williams (13) drives the ball while defended by McEachern" Mia Cooper (2) during the second quarter of a girls basketball game this season.
NORCROSS -- In opening the 2012-13 high school basketball season with a battle of the last two state champions from Georgia's largest classification, Norcross' girls wanted to make a bit of a statement.
Yes, it was far from perfect. Sure, the McEachern team that provided the opposition was far younger than the one that ended Norcross' two-year run of state titles.
But that didn't make the Blue Devils' 57-41 win in the finale of the opening night of the Lady Blue Tip-Off Classic on Wednesday at the House of Blue any less satisfying.
"It was a great effort because the kids kept working," Norcross coach Angie Hembree said. "It wasn't pretty, but they kept working, and that's what matters."
Indeed, there is plenty for the Blue Devils (1-0) to work on after committing 25 turnovers and missing numerous layups throughout the game, but there were also flashes of how dominating they can be.
That was particularly true for senior wing Diamond DeShields, who capped an exciting day in which she signed her National Letter of Intent with North Carolina by posting game highs of 28 points and 18 rebounds to go along with three steals and a blocked shot despite getting over a stomach virus earlier this week.
"I just believe (Wednesday) was too good to end with a loss," the two-time defending Daily Post Girls Player of the Year said. "Especially after the way we ended last year. We kind of played (Wednesday) night with a chip on our shoulder. Although it was a sloppy win, I believe we were going to do what ever it took to get the W."
Despite taking a 6-0 lead over the opening 1:53, the Blue Devils actually found themselves even or trailing much of the half thanks to some hot shooting by McEachern (0-1) early on.
Jada Lewis, Te'a Cooper and Declaria Daniels each hit 3-pointers during an 11-2 run over a 2:13 stretch that vaulted the Indians into an 11-8 lead with 2:06 left in the first quarter.
McEachern matched that three-point lead twice more in the second quarter, but Norcross managed to stay within arm's length before making its move late in the half.
After a pair of Sydney Marshall free throws, DeShields added a driving layup down the right side of the lane and then grabbed a rebound on the defensive end before going coast-to-coast for the layup. It sparked a 13-0 run over the final 2:47 of the half to send the Blue Devils into intermission with a 28-18 lead.
And that was only the beginning, as DeShields and Norcross continued the momentum into the second half.
The 6-foot-2 senior hit a jumper 39 seconds into the third quarter, Shayla Cooper added a basket and two free throws and Sydney Marshall followed her own miss to lead an 8-2 run over the opening 3:31 of the period. The run ballooned the Norcross lead to 39-23.
DeShields' stickback 25 seconds into the fourth quarter pushed the lead to 20 points at 46-26, and the Blue Devils never looked back, building as much as a 23-point lead before a late run by McEachern's reserves made the final margin 16 points.
Cooper also had an impressive night for Norcross with 14 points, including a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw line, plus nine rebounds, three steals and a block, while Marshall chipped in eight points and nine boards.
Te'a Cooper led McEachern with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Lewis and Kierra Finley added eight points each for the Indians.