The Norcross Blue Devils boys basketball team took the court Saturday night looking to advance to the Class AAAAAA title game for the opportunity to duplicate what the football team did this year and win their second straight state championship, while Tift County came in looking to advance to their first state title game in a decade. Norcross was unable to contain Tadric Jackson, and the Georgia Tech recruit scored 35 points in his first game on the Jacket home floor at McMcamish Pavilion. The 6-foot-2 senior led Tift County to an eight-point victory over Norcross, 78-70.
Tift County (28-3) was in control most of the night, leading by 10 at halftime and 15 in the third quarter, but Norcross (25-7) continued to battle and went on an 8-0 run that pulled the Blue Devils to within a point, 51-50.
Up by one and trying to stop the Norcross run, Jackson took over and scored six unanswered points to push the Tift County lead to 57-50. Jackson first hit a 3-pointer, was fouled and was good from the line. Then he made a steal and scored.
Norcross showed the heart of a champion and fought back once again to even the score at 57 halfway through the final quarter, but Jackson again took control of the game and scored seven (basket, two free throws, 3-pointer) of the next nine points for Tift County, leading Tift to a 67-59 advantage.
While the Blue Devils kept it tight, Tift County led at each break; 16-10 after the first quarter, 34-24 at the half and 51-42 as the fourth quarter opened.
In addition to Jackson, Tift County got double-digit scoring nights from Tyrie Jackson (12) and Ladarius Stewart (11) in the win.
Ricky Madison led Norcross on offense in the loss. The junior scored 23 points, 20 in the second half, and senior AJ Bush scored 17, 14 after the half Lorenzo Carter also scored in double-digits. The Georgia bound senior tallied 16 points and blocked three shots. Khalen Pinkett scored eight points and had five assists.
Tift County, which last won a state title in 1996, will next meet Wheeler in the title game. It is the first trip for Tift County to the title game since 2004.
The Blue Devils have won five state titles since 2006 and were the runner-up in 2005. Coach Eddie Martin led Norcross to three straight titles (2006-2008) and has won two in Coach McMillan’s six seasons.