Photo: Karl L. Moore Norcross forward Lorenzo Carter (22) slams home the dunk over Peachtree Ridge's Aaron Augustin (22) during Saturday night's Region 7-AAAAAA championship game.
HOSCHTON --Brandon Goodwin, fittingly, got to finish it off.
The senior guard was the leading scorer of last season's Norcross boys basketball team that fell short of the program's high standards -- failing to reach the region title game, losing its last two region tourney games by double figures and losing the state tournament opener.
In scoring his team's last seven points Saturday night, Goodwin helped his teammates announce that Norcross is back.
The Blue Devils reclaimed the region championship with a hard-fought, 55-48 win over Peachtree Ridge in the 7-AAAAAA finals.
"It feels good," said Goodwin, who scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds. "(Peachtree Ridge) is the defending region champion and they talked so much smack on Twitter coming into the game. We had to get them back. This was a big game for us. This is the start of the road to state."
Norcross (22-6) didn't enter state with much momentum last season, but that won't be the case next week, when it hosts Lambert in the state opener.
"We talked about at the beginning of the year that last season was the first time in 10 years that we had not played for a region championship," Norcross boys coach Jesse McMillan said. "That was one of our main goals. Winning would be great, but let's get back (to the region tourney final) and play for the region championship. We reminded them about that at the start of the tournament."
Peachtree Ridge (19-9), which split with Norcross in the regular season, didn't make it easy. The Lions trailed 34-27 at halftime after Goodwin made a long 3-pointer as time expired, but they kept charging throughout the second half.
Norcross was held to 1-for-14 shooting in the third quarter, but its defense forced six Lion turnovers in the period to keep the edge at 41-37 entering the fourth quarter. The Blue Devils overcame a technical and saw the lead slip to one briefly, but never gave the advantage up down the stretch.
"It was extremely physical," McMillan said. "Every coach wants a few more calls, but we responded to it. We lost our cool just for a moment right there, but we were able to get it back. We played hard. We said going in that the game was going to be won or lost on the glass and won or lost in transition. We didn't have a good game in transition but we did step up on the glass down the stretch. Buckets were hard to get on both sides tonight.
"Peachtree Ridge matches up well with us and we match up well with them. It's size on size. It's quickness on quickness. Both teams are hard-nosed defensive clubs and both teams pride themselves on that. I think both of us expected it to come down to the wire."
Up just 48-46, Goodwin made a critical shot, a floater in the lane with 1:37 left that extended the lead to four points. It never got closer as the Norcross defense and his free throws finished off the win.
"I was excited," Goodwin said. "I was ready to celebrate with my teammates. This is a big deal for us, especially after losing to them in the region playoffs last year."
Lorenzo Carter was big inside for the Blue Devils with 12 points and nine rebounds and Andre Chatfield added nine points, eight in the first half. Terrance O'Donohue was held to two points, but had seven rebounds.
Brandon Johnson led Peachtree Ridge, which hosts Centennial in the playoff opener, with 13 points, Amir Warnock had 11 points and 11 rebounds, Aaron Augustin had nine points and Edwin Efezokhae scored eight. Jordan Capps was held to five points.
Meadowcreek boys 56, Collins Hill 53
Upset-minded Meadowcreek continued its last-second magic in the Region 7-AAAAAA tourney with a 56-53 victory on Austin Robinson's 3-pointer as time expired.
The seventh-seeded Mustangs clinched a state tournament berth on a 35-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer in the opener vs. North Gwinnett, then got another thrilling finish Saturday. After tying the score with 1:16 left, Meadowcreek got the ball back and held for a final shot. Robinson, out for much of the second half with foul trouble, shot a contested 3 that banked off glass and in for another upset of fourth-seeded Collins Hill.
Robinson finished with 21 points and Meadowcreek, a No. 3 seed for the state tourney with a road matchup ahead at Chattahoochee, also got nine points each from Adrian Hicks and Terrance Snelling. The Mustangs led 17-6 after a quarter and 31-22 at halftime before Collins Hill rallied in the third quarter.
The Eagles, who fell to a No. 4 seed and will play at Alpharetta in the state opener, were led by Devin Mitchell (22 points) and Darius Joell (12 points).