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Orangio crashes Lions' party

HOSCHTON — Nick Orangio understands his role on Mill Creek's basketball team.

The long and tall post player is not the first or second scoring option. He plays defense and grabs rebounds.

"I just crash the offensive boards, that's my role on this team," Orangio said.

He had four rebounds to go with his six points Tuesday for the Hawks, but the last board and bucket were the biggest.

Orangio tipped back a missed shot by Ronald Wamer in the final instant to give Mill Creek a 55-54 win over Peachtree Ridge. He watched it drop and turned to get down court on defense. The entire Mill Creek student section and Hawk team followed him, mobbing the instant hero.

"It just happened so fast," Orangio said. "I was hoping I didn't miss. If you miss from that close..."

He didn't.

The basket gave the rising Hawks a signature win on its season and in the region.

"This is what we needed," the Hawks' Brandon Hayman said. "We really hadn't beaten a big-name team. We finally got our first big win."

Starting with Hayman, they earned it.

Hayman ended the game with a team-high 21 points and he needed two jerseys to do it. Midway through the third quarter, Hayman busted open his chin diving for a loose ball. He used both hands to save the ball from going out of bounds leaving just his chin to break his fall.

"That's us, we are going to get on the floor," Mill Creek head coach Chad Rogers said.

Hayman finished the game wearing a junior varsity jersey and a mound of tape on his chin that hung on his face like bubbles.

"I couldn't get that off fast enough," Hayman said.

Hayman's 21 points came just short of matching the Lions' C.J. Blackwell's 23. The swing forward found his way to the game-high despite wearing down under Mill Creek's matchup zone. Blackwell's points came in bursts and were it not for the Orangio heroics, Blackwell was the game's tipping point.

With 22.2 seconds remaining, he calmly stepped to the 3-point line and nailed the go-ahead basket despite a hand in his face.

"C.J. Blackwell, what can you say? He does what he wants," Rogers said.

Blackwell added 12 rebounds and a pair of steals to his scoring.

"He played a big ball game," Peachtree Ridge coach Keith Arrington said.

Nine of Blackwell's points came in the first quarter as the Lions shot out to a nine-point lead. But Hayman got scoring help in the second quarter from Wamer, who scored nine of his 11 as Mill Creek tied the game at 32 entering halftime.

"This group, they play with so much heart," Rogers said. "They don't ever give up."

Things stayed tight in the third quarter, with Hayman missing time due to his bloody chin and Blackwell scoring nine more. But for every Peachtree Ridge counter, Mill Creek had an answer. Even to what seemed like Blackwell's knockout 3-pointer.

Hayman overshot the first attempted game winner, but a loose ball ended in a jump ball call and gave Mill Creek its final chance with four seconds to play.

"We did a pretty good job on it, we just didn't box out," Arrington said.

And Orangio, the senior, took advantage.

"It's a really good win," he said.