NORCROSS -- Up by 18 points just after the start of the fourth quarter, it looked like Norcross was headed to a decisive victory over traditional national power DeMatha Catholic.
Then guard Jairus Lyles went from hot to scorching and the Blue Devils had to hang on for dear life to get a 68-67 victory over the Maryland school in the Hilton Invitational at Norcross on Saturday night.
"I'm happy to get a win over a team like that," Jesse McMillan said. "But the coach in me can't help but think about all the things we need to work on to get where we want to be."
Turnovers, missed free throws and Lyles' blistering shooting almost did in the Blue Devils (15-6) after they played nearly perfect basketball for three quarters.
"We hadn't faced many teams that had pressed us and it is something we know we need to work on," McMillan said.
Lyles, a 6-foot-1 guard, scored 21 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter as DeMatha (9-8) almost caught Norcross, which had seemed comfortably ahead after turning a six-point halftime lead to a 51-35 advantage with a big third quarter.
Brandon Goodwin scored 10 of his 24 points in the quarter. The 6-foot senior guard also had eight rebounds and three assists, but his effort was almost not enough.
Lyles, who had six 3-pointers, cut the Norcross lead to 66-64 with 18.2 seconds left. An intentional foul with 13.3 seconds remaining gave the Blue Devils two free throws and the ball, though.
Jalen Davis went 1-for-2 at the line and then so did Andre Chatfield with 9.7 seconds remaining. Corey Henson made a 3-pointer at the buzzer for DeMatha, but it left the Staggs a point short.
B.J. Anya, DeMatha's mammoth 6-foot-8 center who has signed with North Carolina State, had 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Lorenzo Carter had nine points and eight rebounds for Norcross. Khalen Pinkett scored eight points and Chatfield finished with seven. William Gibbons came off the bench to hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter for the Blue Devils.
Norcross, up 17-11 in the first quarter, fell behind 18-17 early in the second. But the Blue Devils then went on a 14-1 run to go up 31-19 before DeMatha scored six straight points to close to within 31-25 at halftime.
"If DeMatha was in Georgia, they'd be a state contender," McMillan said. "Playing top teams makes you better. We're getting there, but we obviously still have some things to work on."