Norcross' overall athletic dominance spilled over onto the boys basketball court on Saturday night, as the Blue Devils pulled away in the the fourth quarter to beat Hillgrove 60-48 to claim the GHSA Class AAAAAA title at the Macon Coliseum.
Norcross, whose girls basketball team also claimed the championship on Saturday, becomes the first school in state history to win the football, girls basketball and boys basketball state titles within the same academic year.
"We felt we had a lot to prove as a team and program coming into the year," Norcross head coach Jesse McMillan said. "This team has some of the biggest heart of any team that has come through the doors at Norcross."
The win gives Norcross its fifth championship as the Blue Devils end their season with a 27-6 record. Each of the Blue Devils titles have come since 2006.
Hillgrove, which upset Wheeler to reach the finals, finishes its season with a record of 29-5. It was led by Keith Ray's 13 points and the 12-point, seven-rebound effort of B.J. Brown.
With both teams locked in a tight, back and forth battle for three quarters, the Blue Devils pulled away in the fourth quarter. Hillgrove led 42-41 when Brown drained a three-pointer to start the fourth quarter, but that's when Norcross, led by senior guard Brandon Goodwin, who had 22 points and seven rebounds, took over.
"Brandon's desire to win is unmatched," McMillan said. "The kid's will to win in the last half of this season has been incredible."
Goodwin answered the three-pointer by finding his way to the basket to move the Blue Devils back into the lead. After swapping the lead in the third quarter multiple times with Hillgrove, Norcross didn't relinquish the lead again.
A pair of Khalen Pinkett buckets moved the Norcross lead to 47-42. After Hillgrove countered with a three-pointer by Brown, Goodwin answered right back with a three-pointer of his own, and Norcross led 49-45 with 4:15 to play.
"We knew they were going to be able to make some shots," McMillan said. "In the end, we were able to contest those shots and get rebounds."
The lead in hand, the hopes of Norcross surrendering the lead hinged on its free-throw shooting, and the Blue Devils were up to the task, making six of their next eight shots from the charity stripe and coasted to the win as time wound down.
The fourth quarter was set up by a tight third quarter between both teams, a quarter in which the score was tied twice and the lead changed hands five times with the result being a 41-39 Norcross lead entering the final quarter.
Norcross started the game slow, converting just two field goals in the first quarter and trailing 20-9 after Hillgrove went on a 12-0 run to begin the second quarter, a run started by a Ray three-pointer.
Then, however, the Blue Devils leaned on their transition game more, and the results showed almost right away.
Two quick lay-ups by Terrance O'Donohue and Pinkett cut the Hillgrove lead to five points, and two more shots by Brandon Goodwin and Andre Chatfield reduced the Hillgrove lead to 20-19. Norcross kept close after that with the Hawks holding a 25-24 halftime advantage.
Ricky Madison added 12 for Norcross and Pinkett had 11.