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Football returnees give Norcross hoops a lift

Norcross’ Tim Cameron (12) drives to the basket against Peachtree Ridge’s DeAngelo Gibbs (14) and Isaiah Starks (33) during high school boys basketball action in Norcross Friday. (Staff photo: Brendan Sullivan)

Norcross’ Tim Cameron (12) drives to the basket against Peachtree Ridge’s DeAngelo Gibbs (14) and Isaiah Starks (33) during high school boys basketball action in Norcross Friday. (Staff photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Norcross’ William Gibbons (0) drives past Peachtree Ridge’s Aaron Augustin (22) during high school boys basketball action in Norcross on Friday. (Staff photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Peachtree Ridge’s DeAngelo Gibbs (14) leaps past Norcross’ A.J. Farar (10) for the layup during high school boys basketball action in Norcross Friday. (Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Norcross’ Khalen Pinkett (3) goes up for the layup against Peachtree Ridge during high school boys basketball action in Norcross Friday. (Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Norcross’ Lorenzo Carter (5) celebrates his dunk with teammate Khalen Pinkett (3) against Peachtree Ridge during high school boys basketball action in Norcross on Friday. (Staff photo: Brendan Sullivan)

NORCROSS — When Lorenzo Carter slammed down a dunk off a lob pass against Peachtree Ridge, the Norcross student section broke into a chant Friday night.

“Just like football!” they kept repeating.

Led by Carter and three other dual-sport athletes, Norcross won a second straight Class AAAAAA state football champion last Saturday. Now the Blue Devils have a chance to do the same in basketball.

“I love the energy they bring,” coach Jesse McMillan said of his gridiron addtions. “They’re winners.”

Carter, Myles Autry, A.J. Bush and Chris Herndon had only one full practice before their first basketball game, but all contributed in the 63-45 victory over Peachtree Ridge.

“People were excited to see them and they were excited to get out on the court,” McMillan said.

Carter’s dunk, which followed a 3-pointer by Bush, gave Norcross a 22-5 lead early in the second quarter and the Blue Devils pulled away again after Peachtree Ridge made a run late in the third quarter.

Andre Chatfield led Norcross with 16 points, Khalen Pinkett scored 13 and Will Gibbons contributed 10. It was the football players, though, who made a big difference off the bench as the Blue Devils improved to 5-1 in Region 7-AAAAAA and 7-3 overall with a fifth straight victory.

“We played 10 players and all of them contributed,” McMillan said. “Having everyone makes a huge difference.”

Bush scored six points, including a crowd-pleasing spin move after a steal, and Carter and Autry each scored four points. Herndon did his work on the boards, grabbing four rebounds.

Peachtree Ridge, which fell to a disappointing 3-6 overall and 2-3 in the region, committed four quick turnovers while falling behind 11-1 and it was 17-5 after the first quarter.

The Lions, down 30-17 at halftime, got within 36-29 in the third quarter. But Brandon Johnson, who had scored six quick points, fouled out and Norcross was ahead 45-32 going into the final quarter.

Aaron Augustin scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half for Peachtree Ridge. Milz Tatum, who also fouled out, scored eight points and Amir Warnock grabbed seven rounds.

Tim Cameron led Norcross with seven rebounds, and Pinkett had three assists and four rebounds.

Norcross made five 3-pointers — three by Chatman — but was just 22 of 39 from the foul line. While Gibbons went 7-for-8, Carter showed his football rust by going 2-for-9.

It was Peachtree Ridge, though, that really struggled as a team, shooting 10-for-24 on free throws.

Both Norcross and Peachtree Ridge are in prestigious out-of-state holiday tournaments after Christmas. The Blue Devils are entered in the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle Beach, S.C., while the Lions will play in the Arby’s Classic at Bristol, Tenn.

Peachtree Ridge, which has played a tough early schedule, needs to regroup. For Norcross, it is an opportunity to get familiar with each other again while making a statement.

“The Beach Ball is right up there with the top tournaments,” McMillan said. “All the teams are nationally regarded. It will be a huge challenge for us.”

The Blue Devils won’t be at full strength, either.

“Unfortunately, we’ll have two of the football players for just one game,” McMillan said.

Carter and Autry, top recruits, are committed to national all-star games. But they’ll be back afterward to help Norcross bid for a repeat basketball title to add to its pair of football trophies.