Staff Photo: John Bohn Duluth's Katie Powell (34) grabs a rebound over North Gwinnett's Baylee Rexing (5) during the second period of Friday's game played at Duluth.
DULUTH -- As much talent as North Gwinnett's girls have on the floor at any one time, Lexie Brown has had plenty of help in leading her team throughout this season.
But the Maryland-bound guard demonstrated in Friday's 61-42 North win over Duluth that she can still take over a game when the need arises.
The 5-foot-8 senior scored 27 points and added six rebounds, seven assists and four steals as the Bulldogs (19-1 overall, 12-1 in Region 7-AAAAAA) bounced back from their first loss of the season in fine fashion.
"I haven't really needed to take over a game this season because my team has been so helpful," Brown said. "But it's nice to know I can still put the team on my back if they need me. But really, the whole season, they've stepped up."
Locked in a battle with the scrappy Wildcats (14-7, 8-4) most of the first half behind Katie Powell and Joi Jones, the Bulldogs needed Brown to step up, and she answered the call late in the first half.
With the teams trading the lead nine times with three other ties over the first quarter and a half, North held a scant 21-20 lead after a pair of free throws from Stephanie Armichia with 1:14 left in the first half.
Brown got herself open on identical plays on the Bulldogs' final two possessions, receiving passes from Peyton Whitted and Baylee Rexing before draining 3-pointers -- the last with two seconds left -- to end an 8-3 run that sent North into intermission with a more comfortable 29-22 lead.
"She stepped up when she had to and hit some big shots," North coach Bryan Sellers said. "Right there before half, it could've gone either way. ... (But) Lexie raised her level (of play) ... and gave us a little cushion going into halftime."
That cushion got a little bigger when Armichia and Rexing each hit a basket and Whitted added two free throws during a 6-1 run over the first 1:46 of the third quarter to extend the North lead into double digits at 35-23.
Still Duluth was able to hang around behind Jones, who scored eight of her team-high 21 points in the third quarter to keep the lead at that 12-point margin.
But Brown helped the Bulldogs put the game away in the early stages of the fourth quarter by scoring North's first 11 points of the final frame, including a jumper from the left baseline that capped a 13-5 run and gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead at 56-36 with 3:25 to play.
It was too much to overcome for a Wildcats team that battled to stay close most of the night behind Jones and Powell, who added a double-double with 13 points and 13 rebounds and also blocked three shots.
"They're just so good offensively and execute so well," Duluth coach Chad Pittman said of North. "And they have so many different options. That makes it difficult to guard them.
"I thought we defended well at times, but the problem is, if you take a possession or two off, they score and it's (a) 6-0 or 7-0 (run). I told our kids my kids (that) there were some possessions in the game where we had really good defense, but it was just better offense. ... Give North a lot of credit. When you play a team like that, you can't have lulls. You have to stay consistent throughout."
Even as dominant as Brown was, the Bulldogs also got contributions from others sources, most notably Whitted, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
North also got help from Armichia, who had six points and eight rebounds, and Rexing, who came off the bench to chip in eight points, two assists and two steals.
North boys 77, Duluth 45
Ahmad Caver led three players in double figures with a game-high 30 points, and the Bulldogs (16-5, 10-3) hit 11 3-pointers on the night to roll past the Wildcats on Friday.
North also got 16 points from T.J. Howard, while Owen Lewis chipped in 10 points and Malik Carter contributed eight points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
Duluth (12-9, 3-8) was without leading scorer Shamus Goss with a concussion, and combined with a tough North defense, the Wildcats' offense suffered, with Ify Imachukwu and Obinna Ofodile leading the way eight points apiece.