NORCROSS - The Mill Creek girls didn't panic when they fell behind Norcross 13-2 in a battle for first place in Region 7-AAAAA on Friday night.
Why should they?
"We know what it takes to come back," senior Tia Williams said.
The Hawks certainly do. They have experience.
Mill Creek was down 9-0 and still trailed by 12 in the second half before coming back to beat Norcross in December. This time the Hawks caught up quicker and won more emphatically.
Mill Creek used a 16-2 run to grab the lead before halftime and pulled away in the second half to beat the Blue Devils 58-39 behind some hot 3-point shooting and a smothering full-court press.
The victory moved the Hawks, ranked No. 5 in Class AAAAA in the Georgia Sports Writers Association poll, to 17-3 overall and 13-1 in the region. Norcross, ranked No. 3, fell to 15-5 overall and 11-2 in 7-AAAAA.
The first-place team earns a bye to the semifinals in the region tournament, guaranteeing a spot in the state tournament. Mill Creek reached the Final Four last year and it looks like the Hawks are headed back to the state tournament.
"This win gives us the upper hand for now," said Mill Creek coach Ashley Phillips, whose team has four games left in the regular season and is through with Norcross and third-place Duluth.
Mill Creek made eight 3-pointers against Norcross and took advantage of the absence of Blue Devils point guard Bianca O'Neal, who is sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Mill Creek committed 11 turnovers in the first quarter, but settled down after that. Norcross could never handle the Hawks' pressure, committing 25 turnovers.
"We knew we had to pick it up and we did," Williams said.
Williams hit four 3-pointers and Monique Weathers three as Mill Creek outscored Norcross 49-21 after the first quarter. Weathers finished with 15 points and Williams 13.
"We're seniors and we won't let anything frustrate us and throw us off," Weathers said. "Our confidence is high, even when things aren't going our way."
"I don't know why we've got off to starts like that, but give Norcross credit," Phillips said. "We gutted it out and we were OK once we started taking care of the basketball."
With leading scorer Moneshia Simmons' minutes limited because of a cold, Mill Creek needed to find points elsewhere. The Weathers sisters provided them, combing for 21 points as Jac' added eight to Monique's 13.
"They both played very well and gave us a lift," Phillips said.
Early morning time in the gym working on her 3-point shot paid off for Monique, who had been in a bit of a shooting slump.
"I've been coming in at 6 a.m. and taking a minimum of 300 shots," Weathers said. "It definitely helped me."
Vanderbilt-signee Tiffany Clarke was the only double-figure scorer for Norcross, getting 11 points. That was about eight points below her average, however, and the Blue Devils lost the rebound battle for one of the few times this season.
Norcross closed to 42-38 early in the fourth quarter, but Mill Creek closed the game on a 16-1 run. For the Blue Devils, it was all too similar to their 57-51 loss on Dec. 15.
"This was a good win for us," Williams said. "Now we have to keep going. We want another region championship."
Norcross boys 68,
Mill Creek 53
Taariq Muhammad led a balanced attack with 15 points as the Norcross boys, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA in the GSWA poll, beat Mill Creek 68-53. The Blue Devils are 13-0 in Region 7-AAAAA and 19-1 overall.
Adrian Hubbard had 13 points for Norcross, while Denzail Jones and Zach Lamb each scored 10.
Mill Creek cut the Norcross lead to 40-33 early in the fourth quarter, but the Blue Devils scored the next eight points and pulled away at the free throw line as the Hawks kept fouling.
Mill Creek trailed just 13-12 after the first quarter, but it was 30-21 at halftime and 40-31 going into the fourth quarter.
Drew Bollier, Abiodun Adegoke and Ron Wamer eached scored 10 points for Mill Creek, 9-11 overall and 7-7 in 7-AAAAA.