Pat Chance had just seen her Old Mill girls basketball team win its biggest battle of the season.

Now she was being asked to summarizeher feelings.

A new battle arose.

"I really don't know. I still feel stunned," she said, her arms filled with championship plaques and trophies, her mind filled with a thousand different images that would comprise the Patriots' breathtaking 53-51 upset of top-seeded Springbrook in the 4A state finals at Catonsville Community College.

"We just wentout there with the idea that everybody play their best, play their hardest, and let's see what's going to happen. And what happened is they won a state championship."

It's the manner in which they won the title that most observers long will remember.

A young team that refused to come unglued in a 68-40 semifinal win over Largo Thursday appeared to do just that in the second half against the Blue Devils of Montgomery County.

The Patriots outscored Springbrook, 27-5, in the second quarter to build a 20-point halftime lead, but hit just two of 18 shots in the third quarter and fell behind, 49-44, with underthree minutes remaining in the game.

"Sometimes in a game, you gocold. We went ice cold," said sophomore forward Anne Chicorelli, whohad nine points off the bench.

"Maybe that's where nerves might have come in," Chance said. "Our shooting was cold and we just could never get the momentum going. We were shooting flat, not shooting, that type of thing, and that could very well be nerves -- inexperience and nerves."

And perhaps overconfidence.

The second-seeded Patriots were seen celebrating their 38-18 halftime lead in front of the scorer's table as the Blue Devils made their way to the locker room.

"I told them at halftime, 'You got up on them by 20 points in one half, that means they can come back and get up on you by 20 points.' But sometimes you can say all you want," Chance said.

"When we came out after halftime, it was like two totally different teams," said sophomore forward Allison Wentworth. "We weren't putting out as much intensity as we were before. We should have kept playing hard. But we worked together and pulled it off."

Thanks, in large part, to reserve Lee Ann Lezzer, a 5-foot-8 sophomore guard whose playing time had decreased steadily over the second half of the season.

Lezzer didn't make her first appearance Saturday until less than five minutes remained, but she came through with seven critical points.

"I probably should have put her in there sooner," Chance said.

Lezzer sank two free throws with 2 minutes, 28 seconds left to trim the Blue Devils' lead to 49-46. Sophomore guard Stacy Himes (12points, seven rebounds) made a steal and was fouled by Springbrook 6-footer Cecelee Campbell. Her two free throws brought the Patriots within one.

After Springbrook's other 6-foot forward, sophomore Lora Aggour, was called for traveling while going up for an uncontested layup, Lezzer hita three-pointer to give Old Mill the lead, 51-49.

"I knew I had to do something out there because no one else was shooting or making their shots. I knew this was my one chance," Lezzer said.

Springbrook came up empty on its next four possessions, and Lezzer made two free throws with 27 seconds left to increase the lead to 53-49.

"(Teammate) Cindy Davenport came up to me and said, 'You make all these in practice, you have to make them now,' " Lezzer said.

Old Mill allowed Aggour to score underneath after a long outlet pass from Cindy Weisman, and the Blue Devils' Artise Davis made a steal under the Patriots' basket.

Davis quickly fired a pass to Weisman, who dribbledto halfcourt and launched a shot at the buzzer that rattled around the rim and popped out.

Weisman already had scored a game-high 23 points, including a trio of three-pointers.

"All I said was, 'Please, oh please, don't call it. Say it's not going in,' " Lezzer said. "I didn't think it was at first, but then I saw it go right near the board, and I thought, 'Oh my goodness, no.' "

Chance said, "I was alittle upset with the kids when they let them get within two, because they shouldn't have let them score that easy basket. Those are the types of things sophomores do that I hope we don't do next year. But you have to be proud of the kids at the end for hanging in there."

Both teams finished with 24-2 records, despite only starting one senior and depending heavily on underclassmen.

But of course, only one champion could be declared.

"If that last shot had gone in, it would have been the game of games," said Springbrook coach Bill Wiley."But I have a lot of respect for Old Mill. They played extremely well in the first half and they did what they had to do at the end of the game."

As the Old Mill players milled around afterward, accepting congratulatory hugs and posing for snapshots, Wentworth glanced at senior teammates Sandy Johnson and Denise Zellers.

"I saw Sandy and Denise crying, and I look at the rest of us and think, 'We have twomore years to play here,' " she said.

And the Patriots will, indeed, be the preseason favorites to return to Catonsville next winter.

"I think people are going to expect us to come this far again because we won this year and we'll have more experience," Himes said. "But we handled the pressure pretty well this year."

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