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Norcross boys stymie Mill Creek, reach final

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Norcross' Josiah Moore (23) flies past Mill Creek's Jalen Bracey (2) on his way to score two points on Friday.

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Norcross' Josiah Moore (23) flies past Mill Creek's Jalen Bracey (2) on his way to score two points on Friday.

HOSCHTON — His basketball teams have always prided themselves on great defense, so Jesse McMillan had a good feeling after the first-quarter buzzer sounded.

The Norcross boys coach clapped after his team had held Mill Creek to a single point in the opening quarter, just the start of a well-played defensive game by the Blue Devils, who reached the Region 7-AAAAA tournament final with a 54-36 win over the host Hawks.

“Our biggest improvement over the last 10 or 12 ball games is our defense,” McMillan said. “It took us awhile to buy into it and understand the importance of it. … I thought we were able to keep our defensive intensity up the entire ball game.”

The tone was set early as the Norcross defenders hounded Mill Creek into an 0-for-11 shooting quarter. A free throw by Brandon Hayman, whose 10 points and 13 rebounds led Mill Creek, was the Hawks’ lone point.

Meanwhile E. Victor Nickerson (13 points, seven rebounds) scored eight first-quarter points and Chris Bolden had the other five as the Blue Devils led 13-1 after a quarter. Mill Creek cut the margin to six points briefly in the second quarter and to eight points early in the fourth, but it never bounced back from a sluggish start on the heels of a tough, first-round win over Collins Hill.

Alonzo Nelson-Ododa gave Norcross (18-9) a boost off the bench with 12 points, nine rebounds and two of his team’s four fourth-quarter dunks. Bolden and Jason Croom had nine points each and Josiah Moore added seven points and six rebounds.

Mill Creek (14-12) also got nine points from Ron Wamer and seven points from Trevon Shaw. But the Hawks had a rough shooting night, particularly from long range where they made only 2 of 16 attempts.

Meanwhile, Norcross stuck to mostly high-percentage shots, making 21 of 33 field goals overall.