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McEachern next for Norcross girls

NORCROSS — Either Norcross or McEachern has claimed the Class AAAAAA girls state title each of the past four years, with the Blue Devils taking three of the championships.

The teams will meet Saturday night in the last game of the Hilton Tip-Off Classic at Norcross and who wins could be an omen of what is to come this season.

Norcross and McEachern played each of the past three years in the Tip-Off Classic, with the winner going on to take the state championship each time. Defending champion Norcross is retooling this season after the graduation of national player of the year Diamond DeShields, but Blue Devils improved to 3-0 with a 76-34 rout of Alcovy on Thursday night during the third day of the 14-team event.

Freshman Tylia Gillespie led Norcross with 15 points and junior Allison Johnson scored 12 as the Blue Devils had 12 of their 13 healthy players get points. The Tip-Off Classic concludes with six games on Saturday, but the attention will be on the scheduled 7 p.m. meeting between McEachern and Norcross.

McEachern, which defeated Norcross in the 2012 state semifinals, returns Te’a Cooper and Declaria Daniels from its title team of two seasons ago and also has talented sophomore Jada Lewin. It is newcomers, though, that could make the Indians the team to beat this year.

McEachern has added Taylor Gordon, a former North Cobb standout who has committed to Wake Forest, as well as twins Aunesha and Audrisha Williams (Cherokee) and Caliya Robinson (Kell).

Norcross jumped to a quick 14-2 lead over Alcovy (0-2), was up 25-11 after the first quarter and led 39-13 at intermission. It was 67-24 going into the shortened fourth quarter. The Blue Devils, who were without returnees Kolby Meeks and Sydney Marshall, got nine points from senior Deja Smith and eight from sophomore Ly’Ricka Holloman.

Columbia 52, GAC 40

Greater Atlanta Christian shot just 24.5 percent and lost for the first time this season, falling 52-40 to defending Class AAAA state champion Columbia despite 21 points and 11 rebounds from Brianna Cummings.

GAC (3-1) led 16-11 late in the first quarter, but Columbia (1-0) was up 25-22 at halftime and started the third quarter with nine straight points. The Eagles led by as many as 13 points and the closest the Spartans could get was 44-39 midway in the fourth quarter.

Yaktavia Hickson had 16 points and Shamyiah Smith scored 13 for Columbia. Like her GAC teammates, Cummings struggled with her shot from the floor, but was 11-for-16 from the foul line.

GAC will play Milton at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday in its third Tip-Off Classic game.

South Gwinnett 41, Milton 34

Arielle Harvey scored 20 points, including two clinching foul shots with 17.7 seconds left, as South Gwinnett improved to 3-1 with a 41-34 victory over Milton.

Milton (1-2) closed to within three points, but then Harvey connected twice from the line and Alexis Lewis followed with two more free throws with 5.3 seconds remaining. Lewis, a freshman, had nine points. South, which bounced back from a loss to Greater Atlanta Christian on Wednesday, will play its third game in the Tip-Off Classic on Saturday against Newton County at 2:30 p.m.

BOYS BASKETBALL

Lanier 56, Excel Christian 53

CARTERSVILLE — Led by 23 points from Simon Shafack, Lanier edged out Excel Christian Academy 56-53 on Thursday.

Bryan Gropp added 12 and Bryceton Osborne 10 points for the Longhorns (2-1).