The much-anticipated showdown of the top two girls basketball teams in the metro area should become a reality in a couple of days.
Unless . . .
Western and Old Mill, ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, are on a collision course that would be disrupted only if one, or both, are upset in today's state 4A semifinals at UMBC.
Old Mill, seeded first at 23-1, will play fourth-seed Springbrook at 5 p.m., after second-seed Western (24-0) and third-seed Oxon Hill battle. The championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday.
Could the Patriots, seeking an unprecedented third consecutive state 4A title, be looking beyond Springbrook?
Western, a dominant Baltimore City program that is in its first year in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, looms large. A game between Old Mill and the Doves would be a natural, and one of the biggest girls basketball contests ever in the state.
"They never have done that, looking beyond," said Old Mill coach Pat Chance, after her team won its 20th straight game, 77-36, over Annapolis Saturday in the Region IV final.
"They know [a game against Western] is down the road, and they think about it, but that doesn't mean they overlook the next opponent."
The "next opponent" is 18-6, the Region I champion, and a familiar foe.
As the top seed, Springbrook met Old Mill in the state finals two years ago and rallied from a 20-point deficit at halftime to take a 49-44 lead with less than three minutes remaining. But the Patriots fought back to win, 53-51, as the Blue Devils' Cindy Weisman fired a shot from half-court that bounced out of the rim as time expired.
Springbrook coach Bill Wiley said this year's team isn't as deep as the one that almost defeated Old Mill, which has gone 72-4 during the past three seasons. But the Blue Devils have two Division I talents in 6-foot center Lora Aggour and 5-10 guard Stacey Hawes. Aggour, who averages 16.9 points and 9.6 rebounds, is headed to Boston University. Hawes (14 ppg) will attend Wake Forest.
"I wouldn't rate us as strong as we were two years ago," said Wiley, who is retiring after this season, his 16th at Springbrook.
"We've got to stay out of foul trouble, and we've got to handle their press and not let them get into a transition game. At times, we can get careless with the ball. We'll have to play four very good quarters.
"I think they'll be composed enough. When you come in as the underdog, you just go out and do the best you can. If we find ourselves in a close game at the end, that usually favors the underdog. The team that is expected to win has the pressure."
The tournament is the last hurrah for six Old Mill seniors -- Anne Chicorelli, Debbie Dawson, Stacy Himes, Christine Baer, Lee Ann Lezzer and Allison Wentworth -- a close-knit group that has allowed the program to dominate county opponents like never before.
Chicorelli, a 6-1 forward, is averaging 11.7 points and 8.5 rebounds -- both team highs. Baer is second in scoring at 10.3 points, and Himes is third in scoring (9.5) and second in rebounding (7.2). Wentworth is third in rebounding at 6.8.
"It's going to be different without all of them next year. It's been fun, real fun. That's all I can describe it as -- total enjoyment," Chance said.
"Since I've been here, Old Mill has had some of the greatest basketball players. Not just talent-wise, but also intelligence-wise, responsibility-wise, and with good work ethics. This isn't a job for me, this is pure fun."
The Patriots are hoping to have the last laugh again over the rest of the tournament field.