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Hawks win on heroic effort

SUWANEE -- The Mill Creek basketball players had been in this situation before.

They've been in tense playoff games in past years. They were there two nights earlier, needing a last-second shot and overtime to beat Northview.

So there was no panic in the waning moments Friday night in the Region 7-AAAAA tournament semifinals. The Hawks made two clutch plays in the final 25 seconds -- a block by Moneshia Simmons and two game-winning free throws from Sierra Menzies with 3.3 seconds left -- to reach their fourth straight region title game with a 40-38 win over Chattahoochee.

"That was one of those games where you look at each other and say, 'Exactly how did we pull that out?'" said Mill Creek girls coach Ashley Phillips, whose team faces top-seeded Norcross today at 5 p.m. for the region title. "We never really got going offensively."

Defense was another story. The Hawks (23-4) held Chattahoochee to four points in the fourth quarter on 2 of 9 shooting and their press forced eight turnovers in the quarter, helping them erase a 34-26 deficit going into the final period.

The Cougars (18-7) built their lead thanks to an awful shooting night from Mill Creek, which made only 11 of 57 shots (19.3 percent). But the Hawks started the fourth on an 8-0 run, making the final minute interesting.

With the score tied at 38, Chattahoochee's Alexis Alexander made a nice move in the lane and appeared headed for a layup with 22 seconds left. That's when Simmons (18 points, six rebounds, five blocks) swatted her shot to prevent an easy layup.

"That was nasty," Menzies said. "It was totally clean, too."

"That was phenomenal," said Phillips said, who called a timeout with 18.8 seconds left.

From there, the Hawks ran their motion offense and Phillips said he planned to call a timeout if nothing opened up by the five-second mark. But he held onto the timeout when Menzies had a baseline opening.

The sophomore point guard was fouled by Anderson with 3.3 seconds left, sending her to the line for two shots.

"That took a lot of guts for a kid who had a tough offensive game, but all of us had tough offensive games," Phillips said. "There was no hesitation in taking it in there with the big girls. And then she hit the two shots."

There was no doubt on either shot.

"I had a little difficulty the last game with free throws, but all week I've been practicing free throws," said Menzies, who had six points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Chattahoochee's Kayla Upchurch (10 points) attempted a halfcourt heave as time expired but it was way off the mark. Junior Georgia commitment Erika Ford had 12 points, but was just 5-for-15 from the field and missed all four of her fourth-quarter free throws.

Tamarr Williams scored eight for Mill Creek, while Alicia Brookins added seven points.