Fourth-ranked Cherokee quite simply had no answer for Shayla Cooper and Diamond DeShields in the third round of the Class AAAAAA girls basketball tournament.
The two Norcross stars combined for 62 points as the third-ranked Blue Devils coasted to a 76-43 victory at Cherokee on Tuesday to advance to a semifinal matchup with Langston Hughes at 4 p.m. Saturday at Georgia Tech.
Cooper, who has signed with Georgetown, scored a season-high 34 points, including 22 in a first half in which she outscored the entire Cherokee team 22-17.
“She’s a hoss underneath,” Norcross coach Angie Hembree said of Cooper. “She can get it done, absolutely.”
DeShields, a North Carolina signee, had 18 second-half points and finished with 28. Both played sparingly in the fourth quarter, which was shortened to six minutes because of the mercy rule.
Norcross (26-5) survived a double-overtime game against second-ranked Parkview in the second round but had no such trouble against the Warriors. The Blue Devils led throughout, beginning with DeShields’ 3-pointer from the top of the key 14 seconds into the game. The two seniors scored Norcross’ first 18 points, with Cooper’s short shot in the lane making it 18-5 with 2:49 to play in the first quarter.
Norcross continued to add to the lead in the second quarter, and it was 39-17 at halftime after Sydney Marshall scored on a short jumper with 14 seconds to play in the half.
The Blue Devils then put the game away in the early minutes the third quarter, when DeShields scored nine points and Cooper six in a 15-0 run in the first 2:21 to make it 54-17. Norcross had its biggest lead of 40 points in the third quarter when Kolby Meeks’ 3-pointer made it 61-21, then matched it at 66-26 on a 3-pointer by DeShields.
“I feel good about the fact that we haven’t lost, yes,” Hembree said when asked if she is pleased with how her team is playing going into the semifinals. “We’re still winning, and hopefully we can keep surviving and advancing.”
Cherokee’s Aunisha Williams, the Region 5-AAAAAA player of the year, was held to seven points. Christie Mixon led the Warriors with nine points on three 3-pointers.
Cherokee, the Region 5 champion, finished the year 29-2. The Warriors had won 23 consecutive games since a 47-42 loss to county rival Creekview on Dec. 8.
Norcross (76): Sydney Marshall 2, Kolby Meeks 3, Diamond DeShields 28, Shayla Cooper 34, Sierra Butler 8, Allison Johnson 1, Bri Williams, Javonne Stanfield, Deja Smith, Nia Holloway, Bri Tanner, Audrey Holloway, Dya Dawson.
Cherokee (43): Kiana Howell 6, Christie Mixon 9, Bethany Huch 2, Morgan Darby 3, Aunisha Williams 7, Sydney Pefanis 6, Jenna Brannen 2, Audrisha Williams 6, Jordan Cox 2, Sydney Ross.