Hawks enjoying special season

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman<br> Mill Creek head coach Ashley Phillips addresses his players prior to introductions of Wednesday's game against Northview.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman
Mill Creek head coach Ashley Phillips addresses his players prior to introductions of Wednesday's game against Northview.

Having both boys and girls basketball teams in the state quarterfinals isn’t unusual for schools like Norcross, Buford and Greater Atlanta Christian, who have accomplished that feat again this season.

For Mill Creek, it’s a new experience for a school that is in just its seventh basketball season.

The Hawks’ teams, both as No. 3 seeds from tough Region 7-AAAAA, accomplished the dual feat for the first time with a pair of Wednesday night victories — an overtime thriller by the girls and a convincing one by the boys.

“I think both (boys coach Chad Rogers and I) felt like we had a chance to be pretty good this season,” Mill Creek girls coach Ashley Phillips said. “The boys have been pretty consistent all year. We’ve been kind of up and down, but we’ve played better toward the end of the year.”

Phillips’ team has made playoff success a regularity, reaching the Elite Eight in four of the past six seasons, including a Final Four trip in 2008. A huge factor in the previous runs was Moneshia Simmons, an athletic post whose inside dominance could change games easily. But she’s a freshman at Clemson.

That left the Hawks with three returning starters — Alicia Brookins, Sierra Menzies and Tamarr Williams — and several new faces on a youthful team. Simmons (15.9 points per game) was the only double-figure scorer on a balanced 2009-10 team, and Phillips still has just one player scoring in double figures this season, freshman Jasmine Carter.

But her 14-point average has been important for the Hawks (17-13), who survived an overtime game with Centennial in the second round.

“I expected (Carter) to be really good, but you’re never sure with freshmen how they’ll score at this level,” said Phillips, whose team faces Roswell in Saturday’s quarterfinals at West Georgia. Rogers has his share of youth on the boys team as well. But he had the luxury of building around two of his top scorers off last season’s team, seniors Brandon Hayman and Ronald Wamer.

Their leadership and scoring was vital in the region tournament, which included two big comeback wins, one over Collins Hill to qualify for state and one over North Gwinnett in the third-place game. However, Hayman and Wamer are the only two seniors for an 18-12 team that has relied heavily on a maturing group of juniors (Jalen Bracey, Paul Evans, Daniel Loudermilk) and sophomore Trevon Shaw.

That mix gave Mill Creek its first state tournament victory in the first round, which was followed by Wednesday’s 57-29 dismantling of Roswell. Its defense was stifling in that victory, something it will need to match Saturday, when it faces nationally ranked Milton at West Georgia.