Staff Photo: John Bohn Norcross' Sierra Butler (31) carries teammate Sydney Marshall (10) during a victory celebration after a 59-51 double overtime win over Parkview. The second round Class AAAAAA state playoff girls basketball game was played Friday at Parkview.
LILBURN -- The draining double-overtime victory over previously unbeaten Parkview finally secure, Shayla Cooper lifted Diamond DeShields high in a weary celebration at midcourt Friday.
The Norcross senior standouts had each scored 25 points, ensuring that their high school careers wouldn't come to a crashing end.
"It's our last go-around," said DeShields, one of three finalists for the Naismith Award as national player of the year. "We couldn't let it end."
"We were both so emotional," Cooper said. "It took everything we had, but we had to win this game."
Norcross, which fell behind 10-0 at the start, survived for the 59-51 second-round victory in the Class AAAAAA girls state tournament thanks to an 11-3 edge in the second four-minute extra period before a loud overflow crowd of more than 2,000 at Parkview.
"I'm dead tired," said Blue Devils coach Angie Hembree, looking just that.
It was that kind of game, even for the winners. The Blue Devils (25-5) couldn't take advantage of opportunities to win at the end of the fourth quarter and the first overtime before finally prevailing against the Region 8-AAAAAA champions, which had played just one close game all season.
"It was a great atmosphere, especially for them, and an incredible game," Hembree said.
"I can't tell you how proud I am of my kids and the way they hung in there."
Now Norcross, trying for its third state title in four years, has another tough road test in the quarterfinals, playing at Region 5-AAAAAA champion Cherokee (29-1) on Tuesday. Cherokee defeated North Forsyth in the second round, also forced to go two overtimes.
With Norcross finally headed to its victory over Parkview (29-1), Blue Devils fans yelled, "Just like last year! Just like last year!"
Norcross also ruined Parkview's perfect season a year ago, winning in the quarterfinals. But this game had no resemblance to that 63-48 victory.
"We had a lot of respect for Parkview," DeShields said. "We knew that they were a great team. We didn't underestimate them at all."
Senior point guard Marissa Mandeldove fueled Parkview's quick start, scoring the last eight points of the 10-0 start. But then DeShields and the Norcross defense got going. DeShields, who scored 14 of her team's first 15 points, hit a 3-pointer at the start of the second quarter to give Norcross a lead and the Blue Devils led by as many as nine points before a basket by Genesis Perrymond at the buzzer got Parkview back to within 25-19 at halftime.
The momentum of that shot carried over as the Panthers scored the first six points of the second half to go ahead. But Cooper scored eight points, including a basket that the referees ruled just beat the buzzer, as Norcross took a 34-31 lead into the final quarter.
A basket by Vicki Harris tied it at 42 with 40 seconds left in regulation and Norcross went for the last shot. But the Blue Devils, after two timeouts, couldn't get the ball to DeShields and Sierra Butler missed a shot at the buzzer.
Mandeldove, who led Parkview with 17 points and three assists, fouled out in the first overtime and Cooper's two free throws put Norcross up 46-41 with 1:29 remaining. But Tatiana Wayne tied the game at 48 on a free throw with 12.1 seconds left
Cooper had a chance to win it after Harris, who had eight points and eight rebounds, fouled out with 5.4 seconds on the clock. But Cooper missed the front end of a 1-and-1.
Cooper, who finished 9-for-11 at the foul line, scored six points in the second overtime as Norcross quickly took charge with Mandeldove and Harris on the bench.
"It hurt us tremendously when we lost Marissa. Then we lose Vicki," Parkview coach Tony Watkins said. "We kept battling. We couldn't have given any more effort."
Cooper, who has signed with Georgetown, scored 21 of her 25 points in the second half and overtime, while North Carolina signee DeShields had 19 of her 25 by intermission.
Cooper made 10 of 14 shots and also had seven rebounds. DeShields cooled off after her hot start, but had a game-best 11 rebounds and six assists. Bri Williams had three assists for the Blue Devils.
Wayne had 10 points for Parkview and Perrymond scored eight. Mia Marshall joined Harris with eight rebounds.
Norcross was 20 of 43 from the floor and 17 of 28 of the foul line. Parkview was 16 of 50 from the floor and 11 of 16 at the line.
"We came in saying we weren't going to accept moral victories and we're not," Watkins said. "We couldn't have gotten any more out of them."
North Gwinnett, which beat Norcross in the Region 7-AAAAAA title game and has won two of the three games this season, still lies ahead as a potential major hurdle for the Blue Devils. But at least they are still alive.
"I have two rings and I want a third," DeShields said. "A third would be the best."