By David Purdum / For the AJC
With superstar Diamond DeShields out sick, No. 2 Norcross got a chance to work on a bad habit in a 57-27 win against overmatched Collins Hill on Tuesday.
“We can’t Diamond-watch,” said Norcross coach Angie Hembree. “The girls will know what play we’re running and what’s supposed to happen. They have a tendency to stop and see what Diamond is going to do.”
It’s hard to blame the 13-2 Blue Devils. DeShields, a North Carolina signee, who is considered the top wing in the nation, is fun to watch. But so is her running mate, senior forward Shayla Cooper.
Cooper had 20 points, nine steals, five assists and four rebounds in the Region 7-AAAAAA victory over the struggling Eagles. A Georgetown signee, Cooper made plays down low, where her coach says she’s dominating. She also stepped outside to knock down a 3-pointer and did her fair share of orchestrating the offense from the high-post.
“I usually focus on the dirty rebounds,” Cooper said with a smile. “But tonight with Diamond out, I knew I needed to take on more of a scoring role.”
Cooper had 14 in the first half, helping Norcross take a 27-11. The lead grew to 27 in the third quarter. Collins Hill just couldn’t match up.
The Eagles (5-11, 1-7 7-AAAAAA) have had a rough go of it under first-year coach Paula Skinner. They lost their best player in senior point guard Bre’Ana Singleton to injury five games into the season. They lost by 53 points to No. 1 North Gwinnett last week and were determined to be more competitive against No. 2 Norcross.
“We knew what we were up against coming in,” said Skinner. “The kids were realistic.”
Skinner said her team, knowing that they were out-manned versus the talented Blue Devils, set small goals. The Eagles wanted to hang with Norcross on the boards and set a target of 25 rebounds. They finished with 28. They wanted to stay within 30 and even called a late timeout to try to set up an inbounds play for a basket.
“We just wanted to hang tough, stay tough,” said Skinner.
Sophomore Madison McAfee led Collins Hill with nine points, and Julianne Bayer added six.
Kolby Meeks and Sierra Butler each had 10 for Norcross. Blue Devils point guard Bri Williams finished with 10 assists to go along with a pair of 3-pointers.
The Blue Devils host Mill Creek on Friday, before travelling to No. 1 North Gwinnett next week in a showdown of the top-two ranked teams in the state.
Norcross (57) – Cooper 20, Meeks 10, Butler 10, Allison Johnson 7, Williams 6. Collins Hill (27): McAfee 9, J. Bayer 6, N. Smith 4, T. Harris 4, Nolan 2, M. Bayer 2. Halftime: Norcross 27, Collins Hill 11