Photo: David McGregor Duluth's Ify Imachukwu (11) goes around Meadowcreek's Terrance Snelling during the first half of the game on Wendsday night in Duluth.
DULUTH -- Though just a sophomore, Adrian Hicks is one of the few experienced players on a young Meadowcreek boys basketball team.
In Wednesday night's Region 7-AAAAAA game against Duluth, the 5-foot-9 sophomore showed it.
Despite being relegated to the bench by Billy Davis at the start, Hicks worked his way back into his coach's good graces by scoring all 15 of his points off the bench in the second half, including two free throws with 9.4 seconds left to help the Mustangs to a 50-48 road win.
"It was rugged, but I'll take a win any way we can get it right now," Davis said after Meadowcreek improved to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in region. "I don't have but one player (Hicks) who played varsity last year. A.J.'s really the only experienced we've got, and he's just a sophomore. But he really turned things around, especially when we fell behind."
Meadowcreek actually scored the first seven points of the game, but once Duluth (7-4, 2-4) pulled to within 12-8 by the end of the first quarter, neither team led by more than five points for the remainder of the back-and-forth contest.
Meadowcreek's Austin Robinson, who scored 10 of his 15 points in the first half, and Duluth's Bryce Wooten, who had all nine of his points and eight of his game-high 11 rebounds, both had a strong opening 16 minutes that ended with the two teams tied at 25-all.
But in the second half, team leaders Hicks and Shamus Goss, who had 12 of his game-high 16 points and both of his assists after halftime, began to assert themselves.
Goss did so first, scoring seven points and adding a pair of steals in the third quarter as the Wildcats forced Meadowcreek into turnovers in its first four possessions of the second half to take as much as a 30-25 lead.
The Mustangs pulled to within 37-36 by the end of the quarter, but it looked like Duluth was beginning to take control when Goss and Obinna Ofodile each scored three points during an 8-4 run over the first 4:05 of the fourth quarter to take a 40-35 lead with 3:55 to play.
Then Hicks began to heat up, draining what turned out to be Meadowcreek's last field goal of the night with a 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:58 left to pull the Mustangs to within 45-43.
And on the ensuing inbound pass, he combined with Joshua Moore to harass Duluth into a turnover, which he picked up and took to the basket before drawing a foul just nine seconds later.
He then hit his two free throws to pull the Mustangs even at 45-all with 1:49 left.
"We both went to trap," Hicks said of his double-team with Moore. "Josh really made that play. I just picked the ball up ... and got fouled. We got confidence after (those free throws)."
Confident or not, Meadowcreek still had work to do to put away Duluth as Goss hit 1 of 2 from the line on the ensuing possession to put the Wildcats back on top at 46-45 with 40.9 seconds left.
Four more free throws by Hicks -- who finished the night 8 of 8 from the line -- sandwiched another 1 of 2 trip by Goss to leave Meadowcreek with a 50-47 lead with 9.4 seconds left.
But Duluth had one last chance in the final 7.1 seconds, after Sabion Griffin-Bey hit 1 of 2 from the line to make the lead 50-48, and Meadowcreek missed a pair from the line.
Ofodile pulled down the rebound and outleted a pass to Romelo Styron, who quickly dribbled up the court with the clock winding down.
But instead of taking a potential game-tying show at the foul-line, he dished off to Griffen-Bey on the left wing, only to have Robinson get a hand on his shot as the buzzer sounded, allowing the Mustangs to escape with the win.
"We just blew it down the stretch by turning the ball over and missing free throws," Wildcats coach Eddie Hood said. "It was just like the North Gwinnett game (a 55-44 loss earlier this month). I just felt like we gave the game away.
"They (Meadowcreek) make you play their way. They make you play sloppy. They make you play out of character."
While nobody else scored in double figures for Meadowcreek, the Mustangs got six points from Don Smith, plus eight rebounds from Anthony Jenkins.
Duluth, meanwhile, got 10 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots from Ofodile, while Gregory Blackshear chipped in four points, seven boards and three blocks.