When the No. 4-ranked Norcross boys saw their double-digit lead shrink to four points in the third quarter, the Blue Devils didn’t shrink or fade away. They drew on their wealth of experience, answered the challenge and went on to an easy 68-53 road win over No. 3 Grayson in the second round of the Class AAAAAAA playoffs.
Grayson twice cut the Norcross lead to four points in the second, the final time at 40-36. The Blue Devils answered with a 12-2 run and was never threatened again. The play of senior Kyle Sturdivant and junior Brandon Boston were crucial when things got tight.
“Having a kid (Kyle Sturdivant) whose been in these types of games for four straight years now, he’s been in some tough environments,” coach Jesse McMillan said. “He’s played at Pebblebrook, he’s played at Westlake. This is not the kind of environment that really bothers him. You feel really good about having guys on the floor that you can trust.”
Norcross advances to the Elite Eight, where it will host the Roswell-Marietta winner.
Norcross, state runner-up a year ago, is seeking its sixth state championship – all earned since 2006. Its last title came in 2013.
The Blue Devils (21-8) were led by five-star junior Brandon Boston, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Southern Cal-signee Sturdivant, who added 13 points. Issa Muhammad tallied 12 points and seven rebounds and Caleb Murphy scored 10.
“We talked about some things at halftime and they were doing some different things on Boston, they were faceguarding him some and double-teaming him some, so we talked about him trying to get some touches around the rim,” McMillan said. “That little stretch where it was getting close, he had two drives back to back where he found Issa in front of the rim for a layup and found another person for a layup.”
Grayson (25-4) got 16 points from junior Deivon Smith and 12 points from Reco Hamilton.
“From an X and O’s standpoint we felt pretty good going into it,” McMillan said. “We felt good about our individual matchups. Wanted to take away the transition and take away the offensive glass and I think we did both of those.”
Norcross girls 67, Grayson 53: No. 10 Norcross swept the double-header with a resounding win over No. 3 Grayson, which was playing without two suspended starters.
Norcross opened the game with a 15-4 run to stun Grayson. The Blue Devils (19-10) used excellent ball movement to set up open shots and enjoyed a 25-9 lead after the first quarter. Grayson (26-3) got as close as 10 points in the second quarter, but Norcross continue to attack the basket and led 39-20 at halftime.
Norcross (19-10) had four girls in double figures: Yamani Paul with 15, Tionna Carter with 14, Morgan Robinson with 12 and Mariah Baltierra with 11.
Grayson (26-3) was led by freshman Catherine Alben with 23 and Nadia Howard with 13.
Norcross will host defending state champion Westlake in the Elite Eight.
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