Region 7AAAAAA champion Norcross (26-6) is riding a 16-game winning streak, with its last loss occurring almost two months ago.
The Blue Devils have a lot of big-game experience on their side, having won the Class AAAAA championship in 2011. Norcross, which also claimed consecutive state championships from 2006-09, is averaging 62.5 points per game while holding opponents to 49.1 per contest.
Norcross provided two standout defensive plays at the end of its semifinal win over North Cobb last week, with Terrance O’Donohue picking up a key block and Brandon Goodwin collecting a rebound and putback off a missed free throw as time expired.
“Norcross is really good,” Hillgrove coach Ed Morris said. “They do a lot of things well. They’re good in their offensive and defensive transition, they’re good rebounders, they shoot the ball well and they play good defense. We’ll have our hands full.”
Goodwin leads Norcross with 15.3 points per game, and he also averages 6.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists. Andre Chatfield averages 11.7 points, while Lorenzo Carter — an offseason transfer from Whitefield Academy, along with Khalen Pinkett — puts up 9.4 points and 5.7 boards. Ricky Madison is averaging 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds.
There will be a distinct height advantage for Norcross against Hillgrove. The Blue Devils have eight players who stand 6-foot-4 or taller, including the 6-7 O’Donohue and 7-foot Rasheed Stanley.
The Hawks’ tallest players include 6-4 John Franklin, Aaron Bailey and Keith Ray, as well as 6-3 players Kyle Castlin and Dajon Fuller.
Fortunately, Hillgrove has experience playing against bigger teams. In their semifinal-round win over Wheeler, the Hawks overcame 6-10 Daniel Giddens, 6-7 Elijah Staley and 6-6 Jaylen Brown.
Hillgrove will have to rely on slowing down Norcross in transition and working the ball around on offense for the best possible shots.
“Our transition defense will be key,” Morris said. “We also need to be patient on offense and knock down some shots. If the (Hillgrove) team I know shows up, we’ll be fine, but the guys will have to give their best. The hope is to walk into the locker room with no regrets and leave everything on the floor.”
Castlin leads Hillgrove in scoring at 21 points per game. He shoots better than 45 percent from 3-point range and averages nearly two assists and two steals. He also pulls down 6.8 rebounds per outing.
B.J. Brown is the Hawks’ second-leading scorer at 12 points per game. He’s shooting around 42 percent from the floor and 35 percent from 3-point range.
Franklin, who shoots 46 percent, averages 9.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Ray, a 52-percent shooter, is averaging 9.2 points and 4.4 boards.