Begin passing out credit for the Old Mill girls basketball team's magical season and watch Pat Chance disappear.

"The kids did all that. I just sit on the bench," the veteran coach says uncomfortably.

"They take me along for the one-liners."

Everything Chance said and did this winter seemed to work.

With the Crownsville resident effectively using a roster stockpiled with underclassmen, the Patriots tore through the regular season and region playoffs en route to a24-2 record and Class 4A state championship.

For her efforts, Chance has been selected as the Anne Arundel County Sun's Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.

"I don't know if I ever had a group of kids who played with as much confidence as they did," she says. "You tell a team, 'Don't get nervous, don't worry, everything will be fine,' but they run around telling you, 'It's no problem, we'll do it, we'll keep working hard.'

"It's their attitude. They have their own personality."

The Patriots took on the personality of their coach, who helped relieve the pressure of a long season by keeping the mood light.

"I'm somewhat laid-back with the kids," she says. "I like to joke around with the team, yet keep everything under control. I don't ever want practice to be boring."

As with past teams, Chance set aside time during each practice session to preach fundamentals. And with six sophomores and one freshman in the mix, her instruction took on greater importance.

"I've never spent a lot of time working on complicated offenses

and defenses," she says. "You've got to be able to pass, dribble and shoot. It doesn't matter what offense you run if you can't do those things."

Though Chance counts a state title in 1986 among her 303 career victories, the past season ranks as her most satisfying "because it wasn't expected."

Not with only two seniors on the entire roster, including guard Sandy Johnson, who missedthe first month of the season with a leg injury and never regained her All-County form.

"I think the kids really shocked a lot of people," she says. "In 1986, it probably was a foregone conclusion the team would win, and I really enjoyed that season. But this year was themost satisfying because it wasn't a foregone conclusion."

Not even after the Patriots had mowed down Largo of Prince George's County, 68-40, in the state semifinals at Catonsville Community College.

"After that game, several people said good luck, but we'll have our hands full (against Springbrook), like I couldn't figure that out. I got the feeling from those comments that it was like, 'You're not going to make it. You don't have a shot at beating them.' And I'm not paranoid," she says.

"If I wasn't the coach of this team and I was watching Springbrook and then saw Old Mill with all that inexperience, I'd probably say the same thing. But I felt from coaching them that we could win.

"I have a lot of confidence in them because they havea lot of confidence in themselves."

The Patriots' thrilling 53-51victory over Springbrook in the final was made possible, in part, byChance's insertion of sophomore guard Lee Ann Lezzer late in the fourth quarter.

Lezzer sank four free throws and a critical three-pointer in less than four minutes to allow Old Mill to reclaim a lead ithad squandered earlier in the quarter.

"That's why we have her there. I had every bit of confidence that when I put her in, she woulddo what she did," Chance says.

Lezzer was one of many role players on a team lacking a true "superstar" but armed with a patient coachwho never lost faith either in her sometimes erratic athletes or theoriginal plan for success.

"Our whole philosophy was to work hard, play hard and see where it takes us," Chance says.

"It took us along way."

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