Top seed Springbrook coach Bob Cilento says his Blue Devils "can look in the mirror and see Meade," the fourth seed team they play tonight in the state Class 4A boys basketball semifinals.
Cilento, who lives in Crofton and has children in the county school system, is well aware of Meade's winning tradition, but more importantly is familiar with the way the ninth-ranked Mustangs have done it this season.
Both teams have put together unexpected 20-4 records. Neither was a preseason favorite, but each followed the same path to the 9 p.m. game at Cole Field House in College Park.
"They are a lot like us, from what I have heard and been reading in The Sun," said Cilento.
Springbrook has won two state titles (1972 and 1988) and is making its sixth trip to Cole Field House since 1981.
"People didn't give either one of us much of a chance to win our regions and we did," Cilento said. "You watch our two teams and we don't look like much but we both have great team chemistry. Where I think we are different is that they have a star in Barrett [Derek, senior guard] and we don't have a star."
Ranked No. 11 by The Washington Post, Springbrook upset top seed host Montgomery Blair (21-3) in the last 40 seconds, 55-54, to win the Region I title. The Blue Devils had beaten Paint Branch, 69-67, at the buzzer in the semifinal.
Springbrook has won 14 in a row and four of its past six in the final minute, with three superb guards in sophomores Tryrian Ridges and Shakil Brew and senior Phil Moise leading the way.
Meade coach Butch Young is making his third trip to the final four, the others in 1983 and 1988. The Mustangs took Region IV by outlasting Broadneck (66-62, semifinal) and Annapolis (78-71, final).
Young agrees with Cilento that the two teams, each of whom had eight returning seniors with limited playing time as juniors, are very similar.
"Their guards are excellent and real good athletes," said Young, whose Mustangs never have gotten past the state semifinals.
"We've got to get in control of the game early and get our share of rebounding. We can't be playing catch-up with Springbrook."
Young hopes Barrett, his 5-foot-10 senior catalyst, will keep his hot hand through two more games. Barrett scored 59 points, including 36 against Annapolis in the regional.
Barrett, who is averaging 18.9 points, has been complemented by a hard-working cast of key seniors Danny Sancomb (17.9) and Tommy Stevens and junior Tyrone "Sticks" Jones.
Meade has been successful with role players such as seniors Paul Turner, Wayne Ward and Andre McNeil, and juniors Dennis Jenks and Teddy Brent, but Young knows that Springbrook is deeper when it goes to its bench.
"We play more kids than they do, and that could be a factor, but we have to stop Barrett to win," said Cilento.
High Point (20-4), the defending state 4A champion, meets third seed Prince George's neighbor Largo (17-5) in the 7 p.m. semifinal.
Largo defeated the D.C. area's eighth-ranked team, High Point, once this season.