Photo by: Brendan Sullivan Norcross celebrates their 60-48 victory over Hillgrove during the Class AAAAAA state championship boys basketball game in Macon Saturday.
MACON -- Brandon Goodwin had a last-second shot that secured Norcross' spot in the state finals.
The senior's work wasn't done with Saturday's Class AAAAAA state championship game at the Macon Centreplex left to play.
Goodwin scored 22 points to lift Norcross to a 60-48 victory over Hillgrove and win the state title.
"It feels good. I'm really at a loss for words," Goodwin said. "We said from the beginning we were going to get it and we did it. Not many teams can say that."
The state title is the second in three years for Norcross and fifth in the last eight seasons. The Blue Devils (27-6) joined the Norcross girls, who also won the state title just hours earlier.
"This year has been really special," Norcross head coach Jesse McMillian said. "We felt like as a program we had something to prove. This team has the biggest heart that has ever walked through the door."
That heartbeat begins with Goodwin. The 6-foot Division I prospect had a putback in the final seconds to seal Norcross' semifinal victory. He came through again on Saturday and gave Norcross a 35-34 lead in the third quarter and the Blue Devils never relinquished it. Goodwin scored nine points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-pointer with 4:14 left in the game to pull the Blue Devils away.
"Since the Hilton Invitational, Brandon's desire to win is unmatched," McMillian said. "He's led us in points, rebounds, assists. We go as we go because of him."
All season, Norcross made a name for itself by playing good defense.
It wasn't going that way in the second quarter as Hillgrove (28-5) reeled off 10 straight points to take a 20-9 lead. Hillgrove was 8 of 14 on 3-pointers. Keith Ray led Hillgrove with 13 points and B.J. Brown had 12.
"We knew they had some shooters," McMillian said. "We had a plan defensively and we stuck to it."
Terrance O'Donohue came up with a steal and a layup, Goodwin forced a turnover and the Blue Devils made another defensive stop. Andre Chatfield's layup was part of Norcross' 10-0 run to put the Blue Devils back in the game 20-19 with 2:40 left in the half.
It was a different story in the second half as Goodwin gave his team a little talk.
"We were playing like puppies. We usually say how we play like dogs, like beasts. We weren't at first," Goodwin said. "I guess that pumped them up and we played our hearts out."
Ricky Madison came off the bench to score 12 points, while Khalen Pinkett had 11.
Goodwin's layup with 3:28 in the third quarter put Norcross ahead 35-34 to give the Blue Devils their first lead since the final minute of the first period.
"Norcross is a great team and they did a good job getting out in transition and getting good looks at the basket with some drives into the lane," Hillgrove coach Ed Morris said. "We were probably a little tired in the fourth quarter. It was a tough, physical game, but our kids played their tails off. I'm really proud of their effort and the way they represented themselves and the Hillgrove community."
Then Norcross turned up its defense. The Blue Devils made eight steals in the game and had four blocks. Hillgrove managed to score just three points over the final four minutes of the game. Norcross improved to 26-1 when holding a team to 60 points or less.
"We let our defense take us to victory," Goodwin said.
Norcross struggled early in the season with Lorenzo Carter and Chris Herndon on the football team's state title run and O'Donohue out with a knee injury. A tough schedule didn't help either. It took until mid-January for the Blue Devils to find their groove. Since then they've been on a 17-game winning streak, capped by Saturday's state title.
Norcross only graduates two seniors in Goodwin and O'Donohue, making a repeat a realistic goal next season.
"We are happy Brandon and Terrance got to go out on the biggest stage," McMillian said.