Photo: Karl L. Moore —Norcross guard Brandon Goodwin (11) goes in for the layup and is fouled by Archer's Kelvin Nwanze (14) during Saturday night's second round of the State AAAAAA playoffs.
NORCROSS — Brian Hamlet’s red-hot shooting had Archer tied with Norcross after three quarters, the senior guard hitting five 3-pointers en route to 22 points.
Then Norcross switched from a zone to a man-to-man defense and Blue Devils coach Jesse McMillan offered his team a challenge.
“He said to be an elite team, we had to play elite defense,” Norcross standout Brandon Goodwin said.
The Blue Devils responded, doing just that.
Archer scored just three points in the fourth quarter and streaking Norcross rolled into the Class AAAAAA state quarterfinals with a 69-50 victory over visiting Archer on Saturday night at the House of Blue.
“I reminded the guys what had got us a lot of wins this year and that’s our defense,” McMillan said. “If we play defense like we can, everything will take care of itself. We changed some things, but I think it was more belief and attitude than anything else.”
Goodwin and Khalen Pickett each had steals and baskets during a 13-0 run to start the decisive fourth quarter. After a free throw by Hamlet and basket by Randall Smith made it 60-50 with just less than three minutes to play, Norcross closed the game with nine straight points from the foul line.
Goodwin matched Hamlet’s final total of 23 points and also had eight assists and eight rebounds — both game bests. The 6-foot senior guard is averaging 22.4 points in five games since the beginning of the Region 7-AAAAAA tournament.
“I don’t think there is anybody playing any better in the state,” McMillan said. “Take him off the floor and we’re a vastly different team. His leadership and desire to win is unmatched.”
The victory was the 14th straight for Region 8-AAAAAA Norcross (24-6) and sets up a quarterfinal game at home with on Wednesday with Berkmar (18-12), which pulled off a 56-48 upset of Region 6-AAAAAA champion Alpharetta (20-10) on Saturday.
Meanwhile, it was a tough ending for Archer (22-8), a fourth-year school that won 58 games over the past three seasons. The Region 8-AAAAAA runner-up Tigers start five seniors — four of which have been with the team from the start.
“I can’t put into words how proud I am of these kids, and what they have meant to me and the school,” Archer coach Tim Watkins said. “Norcross is a championship team and they had to play like it to beat us. We battled them as hard as we could.”
With the Tigers down 34-24 early in the third quarter, Hamlet hit three consecutive 3-pointers to close the gap and a five-point trip late in the quarter on Smith’s 3-pointer and two free throws by Aubrey Overby put them ahead 47-44.
But Lorenzo Carter converted a 3-point play to tie the game and set up the decisive fourth quarter run.
“They hit some big shots,” McMillan said. “They were getting penetration and kicking out for open looks. We had to shut that down.”
Archer hit 10 3-pointers to three for Norcross, but the Blue Devils were 24-for-38 from the foul line to 5-for-6 for Archer.
Andre Chatfield scored 14 points for Norcross, while Pinkett had 10 and Carter nine. Carter and Terrance O’Donohue each had seven rebounds as the Blue Devils doubled up Archer on the boards.
Smith, the Region 8-AAAAAA player of the year, had 13 points and Nefis Floyd, who hit a trio of 3-pointers, scored 11 for Archer.
Norcross, which won three straight state titles from 2006 to 2008 and another in 2011, missed making at least the quarterfinals for the first time since 2004 last season.
Goodwin, one of just two Norcross seniors, was determined to make sure everyone remembered the first-round loss last year.
“We weren’t a team last season. Everyone cared too much about himself,” Goodwin said. “To win a state championship, you have to play as a team. That’s what we’re doing. It’s not about any one person. It’s about the team.”