The six seniors on Old Mill's girls basketball team didn't want the final chapter of their storybook high school careers to include an unhappy ending. And it won't.
The top-seeded Patriots never trailed in defeating second-seeded Western, 59-35, yesterday in a much-anticipated state Class 4A final at UMBC that had been postponed twice because of last weekend's snowstorm.
For the Patriots, it was worth the wait.
Old Mill (25-1) became the first 4A school to win three consecutive state championships in girls basketball, and in the process, settled the debate over which team was the best in the metro area.
"All season, we've been working up for this game," said senior forward Allison Wentworth (four points, six rebounds). "It was our best game; we played so well."
In its inaugural season in the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, Western had built a 25-0 record and held the No. 1 ranking in the metro area, one place ahead of Old Mill. The Doves were ranked No. 13 in USA Today this week.
Even Patriots coach Pat Chance conceded after last Thursday's semifinal games that Western should be viewed as the favorite in yesterday's showdown, though the Doves barely survived an upset bid from third-seeded Oxon Hill, 50-49.
None of this mattered to the Patriots.
"We all like being the underdogs," said senior guard Christine Baer, after scoring a team-high 12 points.
"We don't want everybody to expect so much of us. We're not a team that looks at the rankings and standings, or anything like that. We just took them one game at a time, like we've done for four years."
Wentworth said, "There was never any doubt. We thought we could win. They were ranked ahead of us, and they were ranked nationally, so we had nothing to lose and they had everything to lose."
Senior guard Stacy Himes (eight points, nine rebounds) said, "We went at them and we knew we could beat them. Everyone perceived them as being unbeatable, unstoppable. We knew in our hearts we could beat them."
It was two seniors coming off the bench who turned the game in Old Mill's favor.
Western's Chanel Wright (16 points, 12 rebounds) put back a miss after the Patriots' seventh turnover, evening the score, 9-9, and forcing Chance to call a timeout with 3:14 left in the first quarter.
Chance inserted Wentworth and guard Lee Ann Lezzer -- a starter until the last four games -- and the duo immediately had an impact.
Lezzer passed inside to Wentworth for an easy two, and Wentworth scored again off a Western turnover. Lezzer hit an open three-pointer and rebounded her own miss and passed to Wentworth for another basket, and senior forward Anne Chicorelli made a short jumper.
The quarter ended with Old Mill ahead, 18-11, and Chance's first substitutions of the game were a rousing success.
"I wanted to get some fresh legs in there," she said. "I knew Lee Ann could shoot the three and I knew Ally plays tough underneath the boards. I wanted to give a little change-up look, that's all."
Wentworth said, "All of us are ready to go in whenever she's ready to put us in."
The seniors began coming out for good with 2:23 left, beginning with Chicorelli and including forward Debbie Dawson. The last two, Wentworth and Lezzer, departed with 38 seconds showing and some Old Mill students chanting, "overrated, overrated" at the Doves.
When the final buzzer sounded, junior guard Michelle Salmon hugged teammate Tiffany Slade and held up three fingers, signaling the number of state titles in a row.
"Being a senior, it was especially important to win," Lezzer said. "The first two [state championships] were good, but it's like a senior thing this time. It's really good to go out with a win."
Wentworth said, "This one's the best; it's the last."