In the final moments of the Grayson Rams’ 65-27 blowout home win over the Norcross Blue Devils on Wednesday in the Class AAAAAAA quarterfinals, Rams senior guard Caleb Murphy looked to the Norcross fan section, smirked and waved his hand.
For him, it was an acknowledgment of the fans who’d spent the entire game booing him, and rightfully so. The four-star South Florida signee carved up the Blue Devils for a game-high 20 points, ending the season of a Norcross team he transferred from in the offseason.
» MORE: Playoff results/schedules
Now the top-ranked Rams (29-1) will play last year’s state champions, No. 5 McEachern, at 8 p.m. Saturday at Buford City Arena for a ticket to the state championship.
“It was kind of weird playing against them with all my old friends here but I had to treat it like any other game,” Murphy said. “They were calling me a snake and a traitor and they wanted to see us fail. They wanted to see us lose. So, for us to do good in front of all of them — that means a lot.
“This win couldn’t be any better.”
The Rams jumped to a 23-14 lead by halftime but blew the game wide open in the third quarter with a 19-6 run. Quinones Corpman hit back-to-back 3-pointers in less than 30 seconds to push Grayson’s lead 38-20, then Murphy closed out the quarter with two more unanswered field goals, part of a 14-0 run that spilled into the fourth quarter.
“I was just trying to boost the energy and help my teammates,” said Corpman, who would hit another 3 in the fourth quarter to put Grayson up 52-23, earning a technical foul for excessively celebrating in the process. “They just looked to me and I knocked down the shots.”
The No. 4 Blue Devils (26-4) didn’t have an answer for the team they’d eliminated last year in the second round, and also in the 2017 semifinals.
“We were just anemic on the offensive end,” Blue Devils coach Jesse McMillan said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it, where shots were going in and out and guys just stood around the basket. Grayson took advantage every single time. ...All the respect in the world to Grayson. We haven’t lost many games like that at Norcross, so for them to do that to us says a lot for the quality of their team and I wish them all the luck.”
It was by far a season-low for points scored by the Blue Devils, with the fewest coming in being 45. Rams coach Geoffrey Pierce said his team prides itself on defensive play and that the goal was to make it hard on a Norcross team that had four Division I recruits, including four-stars Josh Taylor (a Georgia signee), J.T. Thor (22 offers) and Kot Yat (eight offers).
With the game as close as 17-12 late in the first half, and with the Rams struggling mightily from the free-throw line — they were just 3-of-14 (21 percent) on the night — it was their defense that kept them ahead until the third-quarter scoring outburst.
“We’re locked in defensively and that’s how you overcome things like missed free throws, or if you have a cold shooting night or what-not,” Pierce said. “We shot the ball well (from the field) but we were able to pull away because of our defense.”
Though the fourth quarter was nothing but a formality, the Rams took the opportunity to pour it on, closing the game on a 23-7 run highlighted by Mississippi State signee Deivon Smith’s breakaway windmill slam that sent the packed house into a frenzy. The dunk was set up by Ian Schieffelin’s one-handed rebound and cross-court pass, all in one motion, to a wide-open Smith.
Winthrop commit Toneari Lane also hit a pair of 3s in the quarter and finished with 17 points.
“Everybody swore up and down that they were going to beat us and some said they were going to beat us by 20,”
Lane said. “We just stepped up to the plate and played team ball. Just because we’re ranked high doesn’t mean we’re going to settle for that. We’re taking it one game at a time.”
Smith finished with four points, 10 rebounds and six assists and Schieffelin had eight points and nine rebounds.
Jaden Harris was Norcross’ lone double-digit scorer with 10 points.
Norcross 10 4 6 7 — 27
Grayson 6 17 19 23 — 65
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