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North girls basketball vaults to No. 3 nationally

North's Lexie Brown

North's Lexie Brown

The North Gwinnett girls basketball team had been overshadowed by Region 7-AAAAAA rival Norcross, but that is no longer the case.

The Bulldogs (11-0) skyrocketed to No. 3 nationally in the new MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings after winning the Naples Holiday Shootout in Florida last week with four impressive victories.

The only teams ranked higher than North by MaxPreps are No. 1 Mater Dei of San Ana, Calif., and No. 2 Riverdale of Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Mater Dei (12-0) won the Nike Tournament of Champions in Arizona before Christmas, while Riverdale (15-0) took the title in the Red Division of Peach State Basketball’s Holiday Invitational at Holy Innocents’ last week.

North also moved into prominence in the ESPN Top 25 Power Rankings, jumping to No. 11. Mater Dei and Riverdale are also the top two teams on that list, with Duncanville, Texas, at No. 3.

Norcross, which won state titles in 2010 and 2011, is No. 23 in ESPN rankings. The Blue Devils (11-2) had three impressive wins at the Nike Interstate Shootout in Oregon before losing in the championship game Sunday night.

Lexie Brown was named MVP as North Gwinnett won the Naples Holiday Shootout, defeating Hathaway Brown (Ohio) 57-50 in the title game Saturday to complete a 4-0 tournament run.

Brown scored 18 points as the Bulldogs (11-0) overcame a 14-point deficit early in the second quarter. She also had four assists, four rebounds and four assists. Brown, a Maryland signee, was joined on the all-tournament team by North’s Peyton Whitted and Baylee Rexing.

Norcross, meanwhile, fell to Portland Central Catholic 68-61 in the championship game of the Nike Interstate Shootout despite 26 points by Diamond DeShields in Lake Oswego, Ore.

DeShields, headed to North Carolina, proved her merit as a top candidate for national player of the year by outplaying 6-foot-6 Tennessee signee Mercedes Russell of Springfield (Ore.) in the first round of the tournament.

North and Norcross are getting closer to their first of what could be four meetings this season. They play in Suwanee on Jan. 15.

North hosts Collins Hill on Friday and is at Mill Creek on Saturday in Region 7-AAAAAA games. Norcross is home vs. Duluth on Friday.