Old Mill guard Sandy Johnson admitted she was nervous walking into Catonsville Community College yesterday for the Class 4A state basketball semifinals.

"This big, huge gym -- we're not used to this," she said.

The Patriots stunned many observers, including Coach Pat Chance, with the size of their victory.

Looking mature beyond their yearsin the heat of state playoff competition, the second-seeded Patriotsled from start to finish in disposing of third-seeded Largo of Prince George's County, 68-40.

Old Mill (23-2) will meet top-seeded Springbrook of Montgomery County in tomorrow's 3 p.m. final. Springbrook(24-1) defeated Frederick, 68-35, in yesterday's other semifinal.

"I thought their quickness would hurt us more than what it did," Chance said.

"I thought they'd steal the ball more from us and beat us down the court more, but that wasn't really the case."

Instead, the Lions just got beat. Badly.

Old Mill shot 50 percent (7-for-14) from the floor in the first quarter in building an 18-3 lead. Largodidn't hit its first field goal until 25 seconds remained in the quarter.

"We just didn't convert the shots we had," said Lions coach Robert Blair, whose team was making its second straight appearance inthe state playoffs. Last year, they reached the finals before losingto Broadneck, 57-52.

"We got behind and never could take the momentum away fromthem. They have a good ballclub, and we never really got into sync after the first four or five minutes of the first quarter," he said.

Despite shooting 15-of-80 from the floor, Largo (19-6)looked poised to overtake Old Mill in the third quarter after scoring eight straight points to reduce the lead to 32-26 with 4 minutes, 50 seconds left.

That's when Johnson, one of only two seniors on the team, made perhaps the biggest shot of the day.

Picking up her dribble at the top of the arc, Johnson swished a three-pointer to put Old Mill ahead by nine.

The Patriots would close the quarter with a 16-2 run.

"I basically came into the game thinking I had to get my three-point shot on to set the momentum," said Johnson (10 points). "That's what I did when I went down the court. I did look to shootthe three."

Blair said, "We weren't expecting that. There's no doubt that three-pointer turned it around for them. A three-pointer at that point just took everything out of us."

Old Mill enjoyed a 28-8 lead with just over four minutes left in the first half. But Largo scored 10 of the last 12 points of the quarter to trail, 30-18, at halftime.

The Lions' rush carried over to the third quarter, before Johnson quieted them with the three-point bomb and ensuing layup after two missed free throws by Largo guard Bianca Allen.

"I think we were just getting lazy because we were ahead by so much," said Old Mill sophomore Stacy Himes (nine points).

Seniors Johnson and Denise Zellers (10 points) were the lone Patriots in double figures, as theteam received its usual balanced scoring.

Sophomore guard Christine Baer added nine points, junior Cindy Davenport eight, sophomore Debbie Dawson six, junior Jennifer Schmittle and sophomores Allison Wentworth and Lee Ann Lezzer four each, and sophomore Anne Chicorelli and freshman Michelle Salmon two apiece.

Himes contributed 14 rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals.

Old Mill stayed in azone and attempted to front Largo's Camille Joyner, who entered the game averaging 18 points. But the 5-foot-8 senior forward still posted game-highs in scoring (22 points) and rebounds (21).

"It was hard to front her because we couldn't get around, and if we did, they threw it over top of us," Dawson said. "They do a good job of getting the ball to her."

Chance thought her young team did a good job of staying loose beforehand, despite the pressure-packed environment.

"They're crazy like I am. Not too much bothers them," she said, laughing. "Before the game, they were more concerned about the warm-up music."

As it turned out, there would be little reason to worry from then on.

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