Norcross is still cranky after losing in last season’s state semifinals and the Blue Devils were so wary of a repeat upset in Saturday’s state AAAAAA semifinal against Langston Hughes that sublime senior guard Diamond DeShields referred to the contest as a possible, “David and Goliath game.”
The big kid(s) romped 62-16 in this one, as DeShields scored 15 of her 21 points in the first quarter while Norcross built a 28-7 lead. Then, the University of North Carolina signee and her teammates shut out the Panthers in the second quarter while building a 42-7 halftime bulge.
Norcross next Saturday will try to win its third state title in four seasons in the Blue Devils’ fourth game of the season against Region 7-AAAAAA rival North Gwinnett. North Gwinnett has a 2-1 edge, although Norcross is the only team to have beaten North Gwinnett (30-1).
Langston Hughes (26-3) can take solace in reaching the Final Four in the school’s fourth season of existence.
“Through the whole state tournament coach [Angie Hembree] has said to play with a sense of urgency no matter who you’re playing against,” said DeShields. “Before we came out here, we said this was kind of like a ‘David and Goliath’ game in that this Langston Hughes team is new, they had never made it this far, they had nothing to lose.
“With that being said, we had to be the aggressor today, and do what we did.”
Norcross (27-5) led before the clock began running.
Langston Hughes was assessed a technical foul for delay of game because the Panthers arrivted at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion with the wrong color uniforms.
Coach Borato Boughton had to send someone to the south Fulton county school to retrieve the proper duds, and by the team the Panthers were properly attired, the game had been delayed from its 4 p.m. start time.
DeShields made two free throws, and moments after that took the first inbound pass of the game in the left corner and drained a 3-pointer.
Langston Hughes turned the ball over on its first three possessions, and four of its first five. The Panthers trailed 9-0 before getting off a shot as Norcross came out firing and swarming on defense.
Norcross senior post player Shayla Cooper, a Georgetown signee, scored all 13 of her 15 points in the first half and dominated inside at both ends of the court.
“We came out with a chip on our shoulders because last year we lost in the semifinals to . . . McEachern,” Cooper said. “We knew that we would be facing an opponent that could sneak up on us. We just kept putting in on them. We didn’t want to let up.”
With North Carolina coach Sylvia Hatchell watching the key component of what has been ranked as the nation’s top recruiting class, DeShields, Cooper and the Blue Devils scored the first 14 points of the second half to lead 56-7.
Langston Hughes was led by senior guard Tia Jones. She scored eight points off the bench.
From the moment DeShields hit that first 3-pointer just a couple seconds into the game, Norcross rolled. Junior post player Sierra Butler added 10 points.
“I thought when I shot that 3 everything felt good,” she said. “I had no nerves, and I know the rest of the team . . . when they see me that comfortable on the court they’re comfortable, too. After that, everyone started scoring and we played good from that point.”
Langston Hughes (16) – KennyaSimms, Jacquece Alston, Kendricka Glover, Briunca Caldwell 2, Jazmin Williams, Tia Jones 8, Sitaraya Nelloms 3, Ashley King, Kayla McCray, Latrevia Wilson 3, Sydnei Turner, Anesha Smith.
Norcross (62) – Bri Williams 4, Kolby Meeks 7, Diamond DeShields 21, Sierra Butler 10, Shayla Cooper 15, Javonne Stanfield 3, Sydney Marshall 2. Halftime: Norcross 42, Langston Hughes 7.