Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Brookwood's Kim Fincher (22), Julia Bassell (2) and Shannon Maloney (6) celebrate with Francesca Ellis (12) after she scored a goal as Mill Creek's Megan Gil (11) and Lexi Froh (12) walk upfield during the second round of Class AAAAAA girls high school soccer state playoffs in Hoschton Tuesday. Brookwood defeated Mill Creek 4-0.
HOSCHTON --The plan against Mill Creek's Lauren Tanner, one of the state's top forwards, was simple.
"Don't let her score and don't let her touch the ball," Brookwood center back Sanon Williams said. "That was the idea."
The ninth-ranked Broncos did an exceptional job on Tanner, a Georgia signee, Tuesday night and their attack kept constant pressure on throughout as Brookwood upset second-ranked Mill Creek 4-0 in the second round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
The visitors dominated play throughout, taking a 2-0 halftime lead and outshooting the Hawks 6-1 in the first half. The shots were more even in the second half, but the goals weren't --the Broncos added two late goals for a surprisingly lopsided win over the Region 7-AAAAAA champions.
"It was (shocking)," first-year Brookwood head coach Jeff Becker said of the four-goal margin. "I'm actually still not quite sure how that happened. The past few weeks we've been working on defending as a team and attacking as a team. I think we did that tonight."
The Broncos (15-4) also got steady play all evening from their back line, including Williams, a tall center back who personally turned back numerous Mill Creek pushes forward. Briel Power, Michelle Allen, Meredith Mellard and Sophie Pleger also played major roles, while goalkeeper Kristen Rivers made saves on all three shots she faced for the shutout.
"The whole back line played well," Williams said. "I think we did really well on defense. I was proud of us."
After scoring four goals in a 5-1, first-round win, Tanner rarely threatened the Brookwood net. A major reason was the inability of the Hawks (15-3-1) to get her the ball, limiting the touches of a forward with 37 goals this season.
Her best scoring chance came in the 67th minute when she hit the post.
"We knew they were a physical team and a fast team," Becker said. "We knew their danger player was Lauren up top, so we figured instead of man marking her, let's prevent the ball from even getting to her. We thought it would be easier for the defense.
"With the Milton game and this game, I feel like our defense is getting better and better. They're jelling more. I feel like the last two games they've played perfectly."
Brookwood pressured the Mill Creek defense constantly in the first half, finally breaking through in the 26th minute when Julia Bassell slipped a nice through pass to Allen down the left side. Allen fired a shot past Mill Creek goalie Rachel Allred for the 1-0 edge.
Just 3:30 later, Francesca Ellis created a goal on her own. She forced a turnover from a Mill Creek defender at the top of the penalty box and got an open shot on net that was out of Allred's reach.
As Mill Creek pushed for an equalizer, Brookwood put the game well out of reach with goals exactly a minute apart in the 75th and 76th minutes. Kim Fincher scored the first and Ellis' second goal of the match made it 4-0.
"Brookwood played great," Mill Creek girls coach Brent Leitsch said. "We made some mistakes and they deserved the victory. Maybe after this wears off, we'll appreciate the first region title in the program's history, those kinds of things."
While Mill Creek's season comes to a painful end, the Broncos get to keep playing. They travel to Lowndes on Friday for an Elite Eight game.
They do so with plenty of momentum, looking much different from the team that lost 5-0 to rival Parkview in the regular-season finale.
"After that loss against Parkview everyone woke up," Williams said. "It was just like, 'We've got to work. We can't let up. We can't take anything for granted.'"