Staff Photo by: Brendan Sullivan Hull Middle School's Aaron Augustin (24) celebrates with teammate Romello White (15) as the final seconds expire during their 54-43 victory over North Gwinnett Middle School. Students rush the court as North Gwinnett's Josh Imatorbhebhe (24) leaves the floor. Hull Middle School boys earn the title of 2011-2012 Gwinnett County Western Division middle school champions.
HOSCHTON -- In the Western Division finals of the Gwinnett County middle school basketball tournament, both the Creekland girls and the Hull boys found third-quarter magic en route to victories and berths in Thursday's county championship games.
In the girls' final, Creekland used a 16-3 third quarter to erase a five-point halftime deficit as the Eagles pulled out a 33-27 win over Hull.
Then it was the Hull boys who took a one-point halftime lead and then went on an 18-8 run in the third quarter to propel the Lions to a 54-43 victory over North Gwinnett.
Creekland (14-1) moves on to face Trickum in the girls' championship while Hull (15-0) will meet Five Forks in the boys' title game.
For the Creekland girls, it was a matter of finding a way to stop Hull's Marisa Bowman and the Eagles did just that in the second half.
Trailing the entire first half and 20-19 at the intermission, Creekland went to a box-in-one and focused the defense entirely on the Lions' leading scorer.
Bowman finished with 16 of Hull's 18 first-half points, but Creekland head coach Amanda Heil's strategy paid off in the second half.
Bowman managed just five points after the break and also fouled out with 2:44 to go in the game.
Meanwhile, Creekland found an offensive weapon of its own in Kyra Dixon as the Eagles pulled ahead to stay in the third quarter.
Dixon, who had just three points at the half, went off for 12 third-quarter points as Creekland took a 29-21 lead to the final quarter.
From there, Creekland held steady as the Eagles outscored Hull 6-4 in the fourth quarter to salt away their six-point win.
Hull (13-2) managed only nine second-half points, including just three field goals.
"Marisa (Bowman) is a fantastic player and we had to figure out a way to stop her in the second half," Heil said. "She was killing us single-handedly and we had to slow her down. So we switched it up and went to a little box-and-one. That's when the defense stepped it up."We also had to get Kyra (Dixon) going. Once we got her going, you could see the confidence go up in our team. When Kyra is working, the entire offense works. Kyra averages about 20 points a game and we need her to play well."
Dixon finished with a double-double by connecting for 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
Jazmin Smith added six points for Creekland.
Bowman finished the game with 21 points and five rebounds for Hull.
The boys' championship had a familiar theme to the girls' final as Hull hooked its offensive wagon to Aaron Augustin in the third quarter
Leading 21-20 at the half, Hull (15-0) turned to Augustin as the Lions maintained the lead for the entire second half.
Augustin came up big with 11 third-quarter points as Hull outscored North 18-13 in the period to build a 39-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Hull eventually pushed the lead out to 48-36 on an Augustin three-pointer, but North (12-3) wouldn't go away as the Bulldogs made one last push as Jaeden Sulton hit on two straight three-pointers.
That pulled North to within 48-42 with 2:37 remaining.
But Hull played solid defense down the stretch and padded the lead to seal the 11-point win.
Augustin led all scorers with 26 points, including two three-pointers.
"This is my 11th year of coaching and I've seen some really good players come through," said Hull head coach Frankie Shelnutt. "(Augustin) ranks right up there. And it's not just his athletic ability, but he's really a team player. He feeds off other guys and he likes being around them. He's a coachable kid and a great kid."
Romello White had a double-double for Hull with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
"We got some stops in the second half and I think we also just did a better job of rebounding," said Shelnutt. "We did a good job of rebounding as a team and I think we did a good job of finishing defensively by rebounding well."
North was led by Sulton's 18 points. K.J. Hancock's had 13 points and Josh Imatorbhebhe scored 10 for the Bulldogs.