North Carolina’s Diamond DeShields (23) a Norcross graduate drives to the basket against Georgia Tech’s Kaela Davis (3) a Buford graduate at the McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta Thursday. Georgia Tech defeated North Carolina 94-91. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)
ATLANTA — As the final buzzer sounded both Kaela Davis and Diamond DeShields sat on their benches out of the game with fouls, but after a hug each walked away with much different reactions.
Davis stood at midcourt of her home gym pointing to the crowd, screaming and dancing in celebration not just a 94-91 upset of No. 11 North Carolina but teammate Tyaunna Marshall setting the school’s all-time scoring mark with 1,956 points on two game-sealing free throws.
“(Our conversation) was simple, just ‘Keep doing work. Keep playing well and keep doing great things,’” the former Norcross and Buford standout Davis said of talking with DeShields. “I respect that kid so much and I know she does the same.”
DeShields walked off slowly, sliding off her arm sleeve and headed toward the visitor’s locker room. Her 22 points bested Davis’ 20, but was no consolation in a spoiled homecoming for the former Norcross standout. During announcements there were cheers for DeShields and former Washington County player Allisha Gray and both admitted the cheers were exciting.
“You could feel the love, not just from our fans, but some Tech fans,” DeShields said. “It was definitely an energizer. Being away from home isn’t easy. I was a little more anxious to play.”
The two didn’t talk before the game, but the friends met quickly afterward.
“We are competitors, everybody knows that,” DeShields said. “But we are good friends.”
Tied together since they played together as freshmen at Norcross, this was the first time the two were on the same court together since they won the state championship together that first high school year. It was the first time the two played against each other since seventh grade.
“It was a long time coming,” Davis said. “We didn’t really face each other in high school. Everybody always wanted that AAU matchup, but it never happened. This was the first of many, I am sure.”
The first went to Davis.
DeShields led the Tar Heels with 22 points even though she fouled out with 2:44 remaining in the game and could only watch as her team rallied from a deficit at big as 10 points. With 36.0 seconds left, North Carolina completed its comeback with a layup by Latifah Coleman, taking a 90-89 lead. Coleman took a foul on the basket, but missed the free throw setting up a fast break for Davis. Davis slid around a defender, answering with a layup that gave Georgia Tech the lead for good.
“That was one of the freakiest decisions I have ever made,” Davis said. “You are thinking you have four fouls you don’t want to take a charge. I thought I could get on the side of her and I made the layup.”
It was a special move by one of a few special young players on both Carolina and Georgia Tech. Davis ended her night with 10 rebounds to complete a double-double and DeShields came a rebound short with nine.
“That’s a pretty special class in the state of Georgia last year,” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said.
For Davis and DeShields it’s also a friendship and a rivalry. DeShields recalled she was the winner of that seventh grade game.
“Growing up we really made each other better,” Davis said.
“I shot better in seventh grade,” said DeShields who was 7 of 20 on Thursday. “I won, so we are 1-1 now, I guess.”