As it was in the middle of coming back from a 14-point deficit in the second half of Saturday's Class 4A East Region final against North Point, Old Mill appeared to be on its way to another come-from-behind playoff victory.
On this night, though, the Patriots came back to catch their opponent, but that was it.
Junior guard Necole Hope scored 19 points to lead North Point to a 54-52 victory over Old Mill on Saturday to give the Eagles their fifth region title in six years. The loss was the first this season for the Patriots and denied them a second straight region title.
"I thought we were over the hump," Old Mill coach Rick Smith said. "They just made the shots when they had to, and that's usually the difference in any game."
Old Mill (24-1) was uncharacteristically sloppy through most of the first half and fell behind by as many as 14 points before cutting the deficit to 10 at the half. Things didn't get much better early in the second half, as the Eagles pushed the lead back to 14 midway through the third quarter.
As they did in playoff victories over Severna Park and Arundel, Old Mill was able to rally. The Patriots closed the third quarter on a 7-2 run to cut the lead to nine, then continued to chip away at the lead and eventually caught the Eagles with a little more than three minutes left in the game.
Alayshia Dailey scored nine points in the fourth quarter and fed Kaneshia Afi for the game-tying layup with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left. After North Point went back ahead on two more occasions, Old Mill was able to tie each time but never went ahead.
"I know we kind of faltered a little bit toward the end, but as I told our kids, we were down but not out," North Point coach Michael Serpone said. "We got punched in the mouth, so we had to punch back. They did a good job of closing it out."
The final tie was at 51 with 1:10 left, but Rayeesha Hewlett's short jumper at the one-minute mark put the Eagles up for good. The Patriots had four more possessions in the final minute, but had a point taken away due to a lane violation and missed two other potential game-tying shots.
North Point's Latavia Jackson hit one of two free throws to push the lead to three with three seconds left. After an Old Mill timeout, Dailey drove past half-court and was fouled while attempting a long 3-pointer. She hit one of the first two free throws and was forced to miss the third on purpose, but the Eagles secured the rebound to end the game and gave them their 19th straight win since falling to Old Mill at the Waldorf Holiday Hoops Classic.
Old Mill was playing its seventh straight game without starting forward Rebecca Lee, who scored 29 points in the Patriots' win over the Eagles over the holidays. They still managed to win six straight and advanced to within a game of the state semifinals.
"We had a freshman center (Sydney Faulcon) who played pretty well, and I couldn't have asked any more of her," Smith said. "Everybody else just stepped up and made plays the whole time. We were 6-1 without Rebecca, which isn't too bad."
Hewlett added 12 points for the Eagles, who will play Walt Whitman in the semifinals in search of their third trip to the state final in four years.
"You want to set high expectations," Serpone said. "The goal is to get here every year. If you can get here, you have a chance. It's only one game, and on any given night."
Dailey led all scorers with 24 points and Kaneshia Afi and Imani Afi each added nine for the Patriots.
"This still means a lot to the girls returning because we're going to have a solid team again next year," Smith said.
North Point (24-2)16161210-54Old Mill (24-1)7151317-52
North Point (54)
Jackson 1 1-3 3; Hope 5(3) 6-8 19; Keith 2(1) 0-0 5; Bullock 1 0-0 2; Bryson 1 3-5 5; Hewlett 4 4-6 12; George 0 1-2 1; Satchell 1 3-4 5; Ward 0 0-0 0; Lee 1 0-1 2. TOTALS: 16(4) 18-29 54
Old Mill (52)
K. Afi 3(1) 2-4 9; Dailey 6(1) 11-18 24; Hall 0 0-0 0; Green 0 1-4 1; Faulcon 2 1-2 5; I. Afi 4 1-5 9; Ward 1 0-0 2; Poole 0 2-2 2. TOTALS: 16(2) 18-35 52