Watching the fourth quarter of Wednesday's girls basketball game between No. 11 Old Mill and Severna Park, it sure looked as if the Patriots were trying to catch up.
Visiting Old Mill had the lead, but they rushed their offense so much that it played right into the Falcons' catch-up plan. Severna Park cut the Patriots' 13-point third-quarter lead to two with about a minute left in the game before Old Mill finally slowed it down and managed to hold on for a 51-44 victory.
"That's the youth," said Patriots coach Rick Smith Sr., who starts a freshman point guard and two sophomores. "We try to push it up tempo, and that's what they're going to do even though it's not necessarily what we want to do in that situation. At the same time, as far as I'm concerned, it's still early in the year and I want them to get used to picking up the tempo and pushing the ball."
In a clash of the only two teams unbeaten in the Anne Arundel County league, Old Mill (10-1, 7-0) watched its lead whittle down as Severna Park guard Erin Carroll got hot from the outside and forward Rachel Vander Kolk, who finished with a game-high 19 points, presented a problem inside.
Carroll hit two 3-pointers in less than a minute to help cut the lead to 44-41 with 2:30 to go. With 1:02 left, Vander Kolk hit a short jumper to close within 46-44. Thirty seconds later, Patriots guard Kaneshia Afi heaved a desperation 3-pointer off her shoulder that found the hoop just before the 30-second clock ran out for a 49-44 lead with 30 seconds to go.
Severna Park turned the ball over with 12.9 seconds left and Afi, a sophomore, hit both ends of the double bonus to seal the win.
Both teams were playing their third game in three days, because of last week's snow, and the Patriots were dealing with more than their share of adversity after senior Jordan Bond's mother passed away a few days ago and Smith's mother passed away on Wednesday.
"It has been tough," senior Justine Diegel said, "but I feel our team, we act as a family, so together we had everyone's back. We've done our best to keep our heads up and stay together and be strong for each other and for this game."
After Deja Hawkins, who led the Patriots with 15 points, hit a 3-pointer for an 8-7 edge late in the first quarter, the Patriots never surrendered the lead. Later, the junior forward hit another 3-pointer and a layup and Afi hit a follow shot to push the Old Mill lead to 30-17 a little over two minutes into the half.
Vander Kolk scored 13 points in the second half and Carroll scored 10 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter.
The Falcons (8-3, 5-1) had to play without junior guard Daja Burnett, who suffered a concussion in Tuesday night's game, and coach Lisa Magness said it made a bigger difference than just the loss of her 10.3-points per game average.
"We were really proud of them the way they fought and didn't quit," Magness said. "It's really easy when you're down by 13 — especially when you're missing a kid like Daja, who's an emotional leader on and off the floor — to quit and just hang your heads, but they're getting it. They're maturing at the right time, and they're becoming a good team."
OM—Afi 14, Hawkins 15, N.Green 5, J.Green 8, Lee 4, Ward 2, Graham 3. Totals 20 6-11 51.
SP—Davis 2, von Fahnestock 2, Giblin 2, Carroll 15, Vander Kolk 19, Golden 4. Totals 15 10-16 44.
Half: OM, 23-15