It doesn’t always happen, but Friday’s second-round playoff game between No. 2 Parkview and No. 3 Norcross lived up to its hype.
The two Gwinnett County powers battled through two overtimes before the veteran Norcross club was able to put away a 59-51 victory. The Blue Devils (24-5) advance to the Class AAAAAA quarterfinals for a game at Cherokee. It was the first loss for Parkview, which finished 28-1.
“It was like a heavyweight fight and they finally got us at the end,” said Parkview coach Tony Watkins.
And in the end it was the team with the two heavyweight players who won the game. Norcross got 25 points and nine rebounds from Diamond Deshields, a North Carolina commitment who many consider the best player in the state, and 25 points and eight rebounds from Shayla Cooper, who has signed with Georgetown.
Deshields scored 19 of her points in the first half, as Parkview spent final two quarters with two players on her almost all the time. That opened the inside game up for Cooper, who had 21 of her points in the second half.
“Diamond and Shayla played their tails off,” said Norcross coach Angie Hembree. “But I’m so proud of all our these kids. Parkview is a very good team and I can’t tell you how proud I am of all of them.”
Parkview jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead, much to the delight of the packed home crowd. But the roars soon switched to the raucous Norcross side, which cheered as the Blue Devils responded with 10 straight points to tie the game, eight of those coming from Deshields.
“They got out like gangbusters,” Hembree said. “I thought we were OK and they settled down. We were OK.”
Norcross kept the pressure up and led 21-12 with 4:10 left in the half, only to have Parkview regroup and cut the lead to 25-19 at halftime and tie the game at 25-25 by scored three straight buckets to start the second half.
From that point neither team led by more than three points. With the score tied at 40-40, Norcross called timeout and had 14.9 seconds to attempt to win the game. Parkview’s pressure made it tough and Norcross forward Sierra missed the potential winner at the buzzer.
Norcross grabbed a four-point lead in overtime, but Parkview tied it on a 3-pointer by Makenna Pouengue and a free throw by Tatiana Wayne. Norcross had a chance to take the lead when Cooper was fouled with 5.4 seconds left, but she missed the front end of the one-and-one. Parkview grabbed the rebounded and hurried downcourt, only to miss a last-second winning effort by Genesis Perrymond.
Parkview was running out of players by the second overtime. Floor leader Marissa Mandeldove and center Vicki Harris fouled out, leaving the Panthers without two of their best players. Norcross was able to take advantage this time, with Cooper converting a 3-point play and dropping in a layup to get the Devils ahead to stay.
“We fought hard all game,” Cooper said. “We had put in too much hard work not to bring it home.”
Parkview was led in scoring by Mandeldove with 17 points and Wayne with 12. Mia Marshall had 13 rebounds.
“We had a good game plan and we had them confused early,” Watkins said. “But they’ve got those two (Deshields and Cooper) that are hard to stop. I think they’ll go on and play North Gwinnett for the state championship.”