DULUTH -- The Mill Creek boys haven't had the same kind of success as the girls basketball team, but that may be on the verge of changing.
The Hawks made it to the state tournament for the first time last season and appear to have the potential to make it past the first round this time.
Mill Creek is off to a 4-0 start after Tuesday night's 54-35 victory against Duluth in the Region 7-AAAAA opener for both teams and defense has been the key, just like coach Chad Rogers hopes it will be all year.
"Our goal is to be the top defensive team in the region," said Rogers, the former girls coach at Newnan and Peachtree Ridge who took over for Phil Bollier this season.
Duluth won't argue with that defensive billing. The Wildcats, who entered region play 2-0, felt pretty good about their offense until facing the Hawks. Then visiting Mill Creek did a number on them.
"They took us out of everything we tried to do," Duluth coach Jonathan Hemingway said.
Mill Creek scored the first seven points, led 16-6 at the end of the quarter and then went on a 10-1 run en route to a 26-12 lead at halftime.
"We didn't play as well as we did in our first three games, but we still haven't given up 50 points in a game," said Rogers, whose team won a tournament at Southwest Whitfield to open the season. "We're definitely proud of that."
Offensively, the Hawks count on senior Kyle Speller, and juniors Brandon Hayman and Ronald Wamer to lead the way. Speller had 13 points against Duluth, nine in the first half. Hayman contributed 12 points and Wamer added nine as Mill Creek had 10 players score.
"Their guards are very good," Hemingway said. "They are quick and they have experience."
Mill Creek isn't loaded with height, but dominated the boards. "I was pleased with our defensive rebounding," Rogers said.
Zane Cobb led Duluth with 12 points, most of them in the second half as the Wildcats kept the score from getting out of hand. The Wildcats' early offense was limited to Alex Fragoso, who scored all six Duluth point in the first quarter.
Mill Creek returned four starters from last season and added a number of promising sophomores to complement the team's experienced seniors and juniors.
Rogers took four Newnan girls teams to the state tournament and did the same once at Peachtree Ridge, so he knows what is needed to make a postseason run.
"This team is very smart and plays hard," Rogers said. "I think we have a chance to be good."
Mill Creek girls 52, Duluth 41
Moneshia Simmons had 13 points, 11 rebounds and four assists as Mill Creek (2-1) opened Region 7-AAAAA play with a 52-41 victory over host Duluth.
Alicia Brookings and Sierra Menzies each scored 12 points, with Menzies hitting a trio of 3-pointers in the second half. Jac' Weathers added four assists and five rebounds for the Hawks.
Kayla Nolan scored 13 points for Duluth (1-2), with 11 of them coming in the second half.
The Wildcats, down 10-4 after the first quarter, tied the game at 23 early in the third quarter. But then Brookings scored six points, the Hawks went up 36-30 at the end of the quarter and then opened the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run that include a pair of 3-pointers by Menzies.