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LAWRENCEVILLE (GA) – Norcross needed a shot to fall. Kyle Sturdivant made that happen.
After Kendrick Green nailed a jumper to push Meadowcreek ahead by a couple of points in the closing seconds, Sturdivant drained an extremely difficult 3-pointer as time expired to lift the Blue Devils to a thrilling 53-52 victory for the Region 7-AAAAAAA championship at Central Gwinnett High on February 9.
“We work on that play everyday in practice and it worked,” Sturdivant said. “I always scream out ‘Kobe’ when I do it. I didn’t think it was going glass but I will take it.”
“Luckily, we had the ball last and were able to put the shot in,” Norcross coach Jesse McMillan said. “They whipped us on the glass all night long and that is something we got to look at moving forward in the playoffs because now it’s one bad night and you are done.”
This edition of Norcross and Meadowcreek featured highlights from the opening tip to literally the final buzzer. There were a number of alley-oop dunks, breakaway jams, drop-step slams and blocks which were all worthy of a replay.
Jamir Chaplin (18 points, eight rebounds), Amari Kelly (15 points, eight rebounds), Brandon Boston (12 points) and Joseph Toppin (nine points) all chipped in on those plays but Green and Sturdivant shined in the biggest moments.
With the score tied at 50, Green, who is a freshman, made up for Chaplin’s missed jumper in the lane by sinking a shot (his only points of the game) from the elbow for a 52-50 advantage with just 4.4 seconds to go.
On the ensuing possession, Dalvin White advanced the ball to the frontcourt and called timeout with 2.7 seconds left.
“I’m proud of guys because we were able to get it from the baseline to halfcourt and call a timeout to set up that game-winning play,” McMillan said. “That takes a lot of communication and focus.”
After the break, Boston lobbed an overhead pass to the other side of the court which Toppin leaped to grab and prevent from going out of bounds. Before Toppin landed out of bounds, he quickly passed to Sturdivant, who banked in a deep 3-pointer from the wing over Deavaris Nichols’ outstretched hands as time expired.
“It’s something we’ve been working on all year long,” McMillan said. “We’ve got two or three last-second plays for different scenarios. Actually that call was from my assistant coach during that last timeout. He believed in that call. He looked at the guys and they said ‘Yep that is the one we want’ so it was easy to draw up. We got the ball where we wanted to and anytime we get the chance to put the ball in Kyle Sturdivant’s hands at the end of the game we are going to do that.”
Like the final score indicates, there wasn’t much separation between these teams except early in the third quarter when Chaplin, who finished with three dunks, helped the Mustangs build a 10-point lead. But Sturdivant responded with nine points before the quarter ended to close the gap to just a point entering the final period.
“My team told me they needed me so I told myself no matter win or lose, I’m going to give everything I got and I did,” said Sturdivant, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half.