After rallying from a 10-point halftime deficit to force a tie with 3 minutes left in the third quarter, turnovers, foul trouble and missed field goals proved to be the Lady Spartans' undoing down the stretch as they fell to Norcross 66-46 on Thursday in the semifinals of the Class AAAAA state tournament at the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
Norcross closed the third quarter on a 7-3 run and outscored Campbell 25-9 in the final 8 minutes. The Lady Blue Devils (28-3) will play McEachern tonight to defend their state championship.
Campbell's Erica Norwood led all scorers with 24 points, including 10 in the third period and 15 in the second half, to help the Lady Spartans (25-7) rally.
Diamond DeShields, a highly recruited sophomore that leads Norcross' star-studded lineup, recorded a team-high 21 points to pace three Lady Blue Devils in double figures.
"When there are two good teams like this, there are going to be plays made," Campbell coach Randy McClure said. "We made some. We just didn't make enough plays down the stretch to close the deal on them.
"To (Norcross') credit, they made plays. They have a lot of different horses from a couple of different places and they played ball (Thursday)."
After trailing 31-21 at halftime and 32-22 after the first minute of the third period, Norwood drained the first of her two third-quarter 3-pointers to ignite a 12-2 run that pulled Campbell even with the Lady Blue Devils.
Norwood would finish the game with four 3s to go with her two assists and two steals
Chakecia Miller, who was held to five points, hit a 3-pointer as Campbell trailed 38-37 with a 1:05 left in the third, but DeShields, who also had six boards, three assists and two steals, converted a three-point play in the final minute to put Norcross in front 41-37 entering the fourth.
The Lady Blue Devils extended the lead from there with runs of 11-2 and 11-4 to take a 63-43 advantage with 45 seconds remaining. The Lady Spartans had opportunities to score, but turned the ball over on several occasions and didn't make shots from the floor.
Campbell was forced to go deep into its bench as starters Angel Foster and Baylee Hawkins suffered from early foul trouble.
Foster finished the day with four points and seven rebounds, while Hawkins had four rebounds and two assists.
Norcross' size also proved to be a problem for Campbell as it outrebounded the Lady Spartans 47-33. The Lady Blue Devils and went 24-for-36 from the free-throw line, compared to a 9-for-12 rate for the Lady Spartans.
Norcross made 17 of its 25 attempts from the line in the fourth quarter.
"You always plan for (having to use the bench a lot), but then you never know how kids are going to respond when that time comes," McClure said. "You hope that you've prepared for it during the season, and obviously we had some kids make plays, but we didn't make enough of them.
"The foul trouble forced us to do some things early that we didn't want to do, and we just didn't finish at the end really well."
Foster fouled out in the fourth, as did reserve forward D'Asia Cain, who had five rebounds.
Campbell got off to a slow start after the opening tip. The Lady Spartans missed their first three shots and turned the ball over four times as Norcross jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first 4 minutes. The Lady Blue Devils led 16-8 at the end of the first period and 31-21 at halftime before Campbell's early third-quarter rally.
"I am proud of the girls," McClure said. "I'm always proud of them. I'm proud of the fact that they won a region championship, and we did get to the final four. You just always want more and we didn't get it done (Thursday)."
Jaleesea Phillips had eight points and eight boards off the bench for Campbell.
Dearica Hamby, a preseason transfer from Marietta totaled 17 points - including 10 in the fourth quarter - and 10 rebounds for Norcross. Shayla Cooper contributed 12 points, including eight in the fourth, and had three boards.