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Duluth girls, Hull boys win middle school hoops titles

SUGAR HILL --Duluth Middle's girls basketball team endured its worst quarter of the season in Tuesday night's Gwinnett Middle School Championships' Western Division finals.

The Wildcats went scoreless in the third quarter and watched a double-digit lead shrink against upset-minded Twin Rivers.

"That was a terrible quarter," Duluth girls coach Amanda Rogers said. "It made me nervous. And made it a good game."

It sure did.

Third-seeded Duluth (13-2) survived four potential game-winning shots by fifth-seeded Twin Rivers in the final 40 seconds, hanging on for a 29-28 victory and the Western Division title.

That drama wasn't matched in the nightcap as the Hull Middle boys rolled to a 59-26 win over Osborne and extended their two-season winning streak to 31 games. The Lions (15-0) went 16-0 last season and won the overall county title.

Both teams advance to Thursday's county championship games at Grayson High, with the Duluth girls taking on McConnell at 5:30 p.m. and the Hull boys facing Moore at 7 p.m.

Duluth was in great shape to reach the final with a 21-12 halftime lead on Tuesday, only to go scoreless in the third quarter. But the Wildcats only gave up four points to Twin Rivers, which kept the lead at seven going into the fourth quarter.

The Bears, who upset unbeaten and regular season champion Creekland to reach the final, scored the last seven points of the game as Duluth endured another scoreless streak of three-plus minutes. Twin Rivers' Kristen Washington made a big 3-pointer with 2:46 left and Lilian Onyiuke-Kennedy (game-high 13 rebounds) scored with 2:01 remaining to get within 29-28.

Neither team scored the rest of the way, but the Bears had their chances with four shots that misfired in the final minute.

Twin Rivers' Sara Thomas had a game-high 11 points and teammate Tamara Jordan added eight points and six rebounds.

Duluth got 10 points and 11 rebounds from all-county selection Endia Banks, 10 points from Brianna Dixon and five points and six rebounds from Deja Mitchell.

"They are amazing," Rogers said of her team. "They work so hard and they play well together. They've been playing together for a long time. It's just a fun group to coach."

Hull boys coach Frankie Shelnutt has a pretty good team, too.

Tall and athletic, the Lions trailed Osborne 9-6 late in the first quarter before reeling off 20-0 run. They outscored the Hawks 21-2 in the second quarter and kept rolling in the second half, when Kristian Collins' dunk sent the crowd into a frenzy. Collins finished with 12 points.

Jay Estime led Hull with 19 points, Breon Dixon had nine points and nine rebounds and all-county selection Connor Heyward had four points, five rebounds and four assists. Davis Mills added six points off the bench.

"The challenge for these guys, obviously they're pretty gifted athletically, is to match our effort with execution," Shelnutt said. "That was the challenge and they met it. They valued every possession and I thought defensively was where we won the ball game."

All-county selection Christian Mancillas led Osborne with eight points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Cameron Turley had six points and five rebounds and Jordan Goldwire added five points.