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Collins Hill hangs on to oust Mill Creek

DULUTH -- After his team had hung on to defeat Mill Creek and earn a state tournament berth, relieved Collins Hill coach Eric Nathan had just one question.

"Do I have any black hair left?" he said, seemingly only half joking.

After using a 12-2 run to go back ahead and seemingly take control with 91 seconds remaining, Collins Hill almost let the Class AAAAAA quarterfinal game and its season slip away.

But the Eagles, up by nine points after the spurt, held on for a 52-48 victory as Darius Joell made one of two free throws with 14.9 seconds left and Johncarlos Reyes blocked two Mill Creek shots.

"We've got to stay calmer and not panic," Nathan said. "We made too many turnovers at the end and missed foul shots we should have made."

But the victory Wednesday night at Duluth's Joe Marelle Gymnasium sends Collins Hill (17-9) on to the region semifinals, where the Eagles will play top-seeded Norcross at Mill Creek on Friday.

The tough loss ends Mill Creek's season despite a 16-10 record.

No. 4 seed Collins Hill and No. 5 seed Mill Creek split two games during the regular season by a total of eight points, one decided on a last-second shot. This meeting was more of the same.

Collins Hill led 30-20 three minutes into the second half and 36-29 at the end of the third quarter. But Mill Creek opened the final quarter with a 10-0 run to go ahead by three with just over five minutes to play.

Then the game turned back in Collins Hill's favor as the Eagles seemingly took charge with a 15-3 run before Mill Creek battled back to put the finish in doubt.

Joell, who got off to a red-hot start, led the Eagles with 20 points and Devin Mitchell had 14 -- 10 in the third quarter -- to go along with five rebounds and three assists.

"We're tough when we've got both of them going," Nathan said.

But Collins Hill also got key late contributions from Eric Ambrose, 6-foot-8 Reyes and Grant McDonald, who scored all 13 of their points for the game in the fourth quarter.

Ambrose, a 5-foot-6 senior point guard, hit a 3-pointer and converted a conventional 3-point play. Reyes, who had six blocked shots, had two late baskets and McDonald hit a 3-pointer.

Elijah Bryant had 15 points and Trevon Shaw scored 14 --12 in the second half -- for Mill Creek. Davion Clark contributed eight points and five rebounds.

Joell put on a show in the otherwise low-scoring first half, his 3-pointer at the buzzer giving Collins Hill a 24-17 lead. The senior transfer from Central Gwinnett had 15 points at intermission, nearly matching the Hawks all by himself.

With Joell scoring eight points, the Eagles led 14-8 early in the second quarter. But Mill Creek closed to 15-14 before a 9-3 Collins Hill run that featured seven points by Joell.

Collins Hill was 8 of 10 at the foul line in the first half and finished 12 for 16 even with its late misses. Mill Creek shot 19 free throws, making 12.

Norcross boys 82, Mountain View 40

Top-seeded Norcross improved to 20-6 with an 82-40 victory over Mountain View in the second game of the doubleheader.

Brandon Goodwin had 19 points for Norcross, while Lorenzo Carter scored 17 and Ricky Madison contributed 15.

The Blue Devils led 20-11 at the end of the first quarter and 35-24 at halftime before pulling away in the third quarter to take a 58-31 lead going into the final period.

Andre Joseph led Mountain View with 13 points. The Bears (5-22) advanced to the quarterfinals with a victory over Habersham Central on Monday in a tournament play-in game.

Norcross played without College of Charleston signee Terrance O'Donohue, who sprained his right ankle in practice.