Ultimately, it was the trips to the line that did in the Warriors, as the Blue Devils claimed a 59-54 victory in a semifinal game of the Class AAAAAA state tournament at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion on Saturday.
North Cobb trailed by nine with 7:23 left in the third quarter, but pulled to within one when Jon Beausejour’s 3-pointer with 21.3 left made the score 54-53.
Norcross’ Brandon Goodwin and North Cobb’s Lee Moore then exchanged free throws, leaving the Warriors trailing 55-54 with 12.7 left on the clock.
Terrance O’Donohue connected on two free throws to put Norcross up 57-54, and he then blocked Beausejour’s game-tying 3-point attempt with under 5 seconds remaining. The Blue Devils’ Lorenzo Carter got the rebound and was fouled, but he failed to convert both of his free throws with 3.6 seconds left, leaving North Cobb one last try to tie.
However, the attempt at rebounding Carter’s second miss slipped through the hands of two North Cobb players and into those of Goodwin, who quickly laid the ball in for the 59-54 final.
Norcross’ win — its 16th straight — ensured that the first all-Cobb championship since 1986 would not take place. Instead, it will be the Blue Devils (26-6) facing North Cobb’s Region 4AAAAAA rival, Hillgrove, in next Saturday’s final at the Macon Centreplex.
North Cobb (26-5) made nine 3-point shots, but that came from more than 25 attempts. The Warriors were also just 5-of-7 from the free-throw line — all of which came from Moore.
Conversely, Norcross connected on just two 3-pointers, but went 19-of-33 from the line — including 12-of-18 in the fourth period.
“We didn’t shoot the ball very well, and Norcross played good defense,” North Cobb coach Terry Gorsuch said. “They made their free throws in the fourth quarter, so you have to give them credit. They got a couple of rebounds off some missed free throws, which gave the ball right back to them, and they kept their poise.”
Moore finished with 23 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, and added three rebounds and four assists. Beausejour had 12 points on four 3-pointers and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Jordan Neff contributed seven points and nine boards, but found himself in foul trouble late in the game.
North Cobb took an early 5-0 lead behind a layup from Moore and a 3-pointer from Neff, but Khalen Pinkett — like Carter, an offseason transfer from Whitefield Academy — sank two free throws with 2:44 left in the first period to ignite a 13-0 Norcross run.
The Warriors attempted to get their 3-point shooting on track, but missed seven attempts and failed to get the rebound during the Blue Devils’ spurt.
Beausejour’s 3 snapped the streak and finally got North Cobb back on track as it trailed 17-10 at the end of the period.
The Warriors fell behind 24-17 with 5:42 in the second, but Jacobs’ 3, coupled with Leon Jordan’s layup, brought them within 26-24 at halftime.
Norcross opened the second half on a 9-0 run and outscored North Cobb 15-9 in the quarter. Four different Blue Devil players contributed to the spurt as the Warriors fell behind 35-24.
Beausejour’s 3-pointer with 3:18 on the clock snapped the drought, and Moore’s 3 brought the Warriors to within 35-30.
However, Neff was called for an intentional foul while going after a loose ball, and Norcross used the change in momentum to build a 41-33 margin at the end of the third quarter.
After falling behind 42-33 early in the fourth quarter, North Cobb mounted its final comeback.
A three-point play from Moore ignited a 9-2 run, capped by a Neff steal that resulted in a layup for Moore and a 44-42 Norcross lead with 2:56 remaining.
The Blue Devils bounced right back with five straight points to stake a 49-42 advantage with 1:21 on the clock, capped by three free throws from Goodwin.
North Cobb trailed 53-47 with 46.2 seconds left after Goodwin made two more free throws, but Moore made his first free throw. He then purposely missed the second, got his own rebound and made the putback for a 53-50 Norcross lead with 39 seconds remaining.
Goodwin made 11 of 15 free throws, including eight of 10 in the fourth quarter, and finished with a game-high 26 points. He also had eight rebounds and seven assists.
Pinkett had seven points, seven boards and five assists, while Andre Chatfield contributed seven points and six rebounds. O’Donohue had seven points and seven boards, and Carter finished with eight points and 11 rebounds.
“I’m really proud of our guys for fighting right until the very end,” Gorsuch said. “There were times we fell behind by a lot of points, but we kept coming back and it took some good defensive plays by Norcross at the end to be the difference in the game.”