The early 1990s were good to Pat Chance and her Old Mill girls basketball team.
The Patriots ran off three consecutive Class 4A state championships from 1991 to 1993, and there seemed to be no end to a steady stream of talented girls coming into Chance's program.
But suddenly, girls around Old Mill High stopped playing Amateur Athletic Union basketball in their spare time, and Chance could no longer dominate Anne Arundel County, much less the entire state.
Arundel, Annapolis and Meade have zoomed past Old Mill in the past few years, and Broadneck also has been ranked higher than the Patriots regularly.
Arundel and Annapolis have been aided immensely by seasoned AAU players entering their programs.
It has been quite a change for Chance, the winningest girls coach in the county with a 411-148 record and four state titles.
However, Chance insists she is not losing a lot of sleep over the recent turn of events and will continue to get fulfillment out of teaching her girls how to play the game.
"If all I wanted to do was win, I'd just retire," said Chance. "I've never been in this game just for the sake of winning or money. I enjoy watching kids learn the game and show improvement every time they go out on the floor. I've always said that winning runs in cycles."
But what Chance does not understand is why many girls in the Old Mill community no longer have an interest in AAU basketball.
"I've discussed it with the parents and really haven't found out an answer," she said. "We're not losing girls to soccer or other sports. It's just that most of the girls who are playing AAU ball are attending Arundel and Annapolis."
Arundel was second in the Class 4A state tournament in 1995 and won it last year. The Wildcats are considered a strong contender for a second straight 4A state title this year.
Annapolis is Arundel's top county challenger, and Meade already has beaten Old Mill handily once this season. The Patriots will get a chance for revenge at 17th-ranked Meade at 5 p.m. Tuesday.
An Old Mill victory would pull the Patriots into a first-place tie with Meade in the county's North Division. Both teams would have 5-1 records.
Old Mill showed signs of putting it all together last Tuesday night against Broadneck with a 41-37 win, in which junior guard Seneka Blackwell scored 24 points.
But it doesn't look as if the Patriots (10-6 overall and 4-1 in the North) have enough quickness or size to stay with Meade or to win their division.
"We try to play pressure defense to make up for our lack of inside strength," said Chance. "I say we have a chance to beat Meade, because I've never gone into any game thinking we couldn't win. I know Angela Creek [sophomore guard averaging 21.6 points] is an exceptional player for Meade, and they have those two big girls [Katie Netherton and Megan Poehlman] in the middle, but we have to find a way to stop them."
Blackwell (13.0 points a game) and sophomore forward Lisa Feeheley are the Patriots' top offensive threats. Feeheley is averaging 10 points a game and had a team-leading 15 in the early loss to Meade.
Seniors Jessica Baker, Stephanie Caplan and Melana Betancourt and freshman Lauren Schaech are the other top Old Mill players, with freshman Jen Maltagliati, junior Kelly Mack and freshman Carlisa Howard getting a lot of playing time off the bench.
"I think we're moving up the ladder a little lately," said Chance. "I play almost everybody on the team in every game and never worry about who scores the points. The main things I'm concerned about are how we shot free throws, if we improved, and did we win or lose."
Pub Date: 2/09/97