Duluth’s Alyah McGriff (14) shoots the ball while defended by Mill Creek’s Shannon McCrosson (23) during the second half of Friday’s game at Duluth. (Photo: Kyle Hess)
DULUTH — In four of the five Region 7-AAAAAA losses by the Mill Creek girls, the Hawks have led in the fourth quarter.
“We hadn’t been able to close out games,” coach Ashley Phillips said.
On Friday night against Duluth, though, Mill Creek has able to accomplish what it had been having so much trouble accomplishing.
The Hawks, their lead down to two points with less than two minutes remaining, came through in the clutch and defeated host Duluth 43-36.
“We’re a young team and it had been showing,” Phillips said. “But we’ve been making steady progress and we did the things in this game we hadn’t been doing earlier.
Tatum Ragsdale made a 3-pointer and Mill Creek (12-6, 5-5) closed out the victory at the foul line in snapping a four-game winning streak by Duluth (10-8, 6-3).
Madison Phillips, the coach’s daughter, had 14 points to lead the Hawks, while Ragsdale, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, joined Meredith Schulte with 12 points.
“Tatum had made the difference as we’ve gotten better,” said Ashley Phillips. “She’s a tall wing who can shoot from outside and also put the ball on the floor. Tatum showed her inexperience early, but now she has confidence in what she can do.”
Mill Creek hit two quick 3-pointers, one by Ragsdale, to take a 6-1 lead and never trailed.
“We didn’t come to play,” Duluth coach Chad Pittman said. “In a tough region like this, you have to come with energy and intensity every game. We didn’t this time against a good team and I don’t know why.”
Duluth won 53-47 at Mill Creek on Dec. 7 and the recent winning streak including a victory over defending state champion Norcross. But the Wildcats were forced to try to play catch-up all game this time, trailing by nine points in each half.
Mill Creek was just 4-for-8 at the foul line in the closing 65 seconds, but one of the misses led to a key play in the game. Ashley Gayle got her own rebound and the Hawks turned it into three points.
Madison Phillips, 4 of 4 at the line for the game, made two free throws after intentional foul with 47.4 seconds remaining and Aizha Ross went 1-for-2 with 46.1 second left.
“That offensive rebound on the missed free throw summed up the game,” Pittman said. “You can’t let that happen.”
Shannon McCrosson had a game-high six assists for the Hawks, while Schulte and Ragsdale each grabbed five rebounds.
Katie Powell, a 6-foot-3 Texas Christian recruit, got Duluth close with two late baskets and finished with 10 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots. Bree Dixon also had 10 points and fellow freshman Endia Banks joined Alyah McGriff with eight points. McGriff and Jazmyn Johnson each had a game-best seven rebounds.
The Hawks were up 13-6 after the first period and led 16-7 early in the second. Dixon, though, scored all eight of her first-half points in a 9-2 Duluth run and the Wildcats were within 20-16 at intermission.
Then Mill Creek spurted again, leading 27-18 before Duluth cut it to 29-28 at the end of three quarters. The closest the Wildcats got in the fourth was 36-34 on a basket by Powell with 1:50 remaining.
Duluth boys 61, Mill Creek 45
Duluth gained a split on alumni night, the boys pulling away late to defeat Mill Creek 61-45 behind 23 points from 6-foot-8 senior Eric Hamilton.
Mill Creek took a 31-29 lead on a 3-pointer by Sha Powell, but Duluth led 35-33 at the end of the third quarter and began the fourth with an 11-0 run to clinch the victory.
Duluth, which had its eight-game winning streak snapped by Peachtree Ridge on Tuesday, improved to 12-6 and 6-3 in Region 7-AAAAAA. Mill Creek fell to 5-12 overall and 3-7 in the region play.
“We needed to bounce back from that loss to Peachtree Ridge and we were able to make some free throws and close this one out in the fourth quarter
Duluth, which won 62-53 at Mill Creek, still wasn’t great at the foul line, but the Wildcats’ 18 of 30 was a better than the 13 of 24 against Peachtree Ridge.
Bryce Wooten had 13 points and Zaynah Robinson scored 11 for Duluth. Powell led Mill Creek with 14 points and Miles Riley scored 10.
Hamilton had eight points in the first quarter, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Duluth a 15-13 lead. But Mill Creek, down 26-21, tied it on a steal and lay-up by Riley at the end of the first half. Powell had nine points in the second quarter for Mill Creek.