Staff Photo: John Bohn Mill Creek's Sierra Menzies (23) shoots around Brookwood's Rebecca Walker (5) during the second quarter of a first round Class AAAAA girls basketball playoff game played Friday.
SNELLVILLE -- One run was sparked by super sophomore Jasmine Carter. The second featured the Mill Creek girls' superb 3-point shooting.
The two scoring spurts -- one to end the second quarter and the next to start the third -- showcased the two biggest strengths of the Hawks' offense and made all the difference in Friday night's Class AAAAA girls basketball tournament opener.
The visitors, seeded third out of Region 7-AAAAA, outscored Brookwood, 8-AAAAA's No. 2 seed, 16-2 during that pivotal stretch and held on for a 65-55 victory. The Hawks, into at least the second round for the seventh straight year, now play the Alpharetta on Tuesday.
"I thought our shot selection was outstanding," Mill Creek girls coach Ashley Phillips said. "I don't remember a single shot that wasn't a good one to take for our team."
Phillips praised Carter for her patience, though it was clear early that her quickness was going to be tough for the Broncos (16-13) to handle. She scored 16 of her game-high 22 points in the first half and sparked a 7-0 run to close the second quarter that also included a 3-pointer by Tamarr Williams (14 points).
That run pushed the Mill Creek lead to 33-22 at halftime, but the real difference-maker came in the third quarter.
Williams and Nadiya Miller (12 points) made 3-pointers on the Hawks' first two possessions, then after a Brookwood basket, Miller hit another 3 for a 42-24 lead.
At that point, Mill Creek (20-9) had made 8 of 10 3-pointers as Sierra Menzies (seven points, five assists) did a nice job of finding the open shooter.
"The first two possessions of the second half were two of our better possessions of the year, because we ran set plays and they were well defended by Brookwood," Phillips said. "But we kept running it and got the shots we wanted. ... That was a big stretch to take away any momentum they had going into halftime."
Despite the large deficit, Brookwood kept fighting back.
The Broncos got as close as seven points early in the fourth quarter, but never got closer. Courtney Gardner scored all 14 of her points and the majority of her nine rebounds in the second half, while Shontice Butler had 10 of her team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Rebecca Walker had a good all-around game for the Broncos with 14 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and three blocks.
Both Walker and Gardner return next season, but Brookwood loses eight seniors to graduation.
"I'm not sure in 23 years of coaching that I've had a team that started where they did and were able to turn things around as individuals and as a team," said Brookwood girls coach Scott Terry, whose team has made the state playoffs seven of the past eight years. "It's about more than basketball. They've got a lot of character and a lot of maturity in this group."