Craig Hall agreed, with a little hesitation, that Old Mill's upset win at No. 3-ranked Annapolis last night was his "best game" of the season. But he didn't pause in what the 64-61 victory meant collectively to the 12th-ranked Patriots.
The loss ended Annapolis' hopes for an unbeaten season after 14 straight wins. Old Mill also upset the Panthers last winter.
"Without a doubt, it was our biggest win of the season, even bigger than winning the Unseld [holiday] tournament, because this is our county and it was Annapolis," said Hall, a 6-foot-4 senior. "The pressure was on them because they're Annapolis."
Old Mill coach Paul Bunting agreed, adding: "You're playing against the best team in the county [Anne Arundel], and the Annapolis stigma is there. These guys [Annapolis] are the best year in and year out for 15, 25 or 30 years."
Hall, a forward-center, led the Patriots (13-2) with 19 points, including a pressure free throw with four seconds left, and a game-high 12 rebounds. Annapolis as a team had just 11 offensive boards.
Senior point guard Tim Smith scored 17 for the Patriots, and junior Montese Hensen scored 10 and had four rebounds off the bench.
The lanky Hall, who came into the game averaging 8.8 rebounds, also got the Panthers' leading rebounder, Travis Foster (8.4), into foul trouble.
Foster, a 6-5 junior who finished with five points and five rebounds, fouled out with 5: 35 left. Marcus Johnson, who was averaging 13.9 points for the Panthers, also fouled out with three minutes left.
"I knew coming in my main job was to keep them off the boards and control the inside, and I feel I did a really good job tonight," said Hall. "And keeping them off the offensive boards was important, because they would put it up and expect to get it back and put it right back up for another shot. It helped, with them fouling out."
Losing Foster and Johnson on a night when junior swingman Thomas Hawkins was off his game hurt Annapolis down the stretch. Hawkins scored nine points, almost seven below his average, and collected half as many rebounds as usual (four).
"With Foster out, we lost rebounding and defense, and with Johnson out, we lost everything -- defense, ball-handling and shooting," said Panthers coach John Brady.
Hall's pressure free throw on the back end of two with four seconds left gave Old Mill the final margin of victory and forced a desperation three-point attempt by Hawkins with one second left.
Marcus Neal, who had a game-high 23 points and led the Panthers with seven boards, grabbed the rebound but couldn't shoot.
"When I missed those two [with 1: 19 left and Old Mill leading 61-57], I was thinking I've got to get the ball back, because I don't want to cost my team the win," said Hall.
He sank three of six from the line in the final four minutes with his team hitting only 8-for-16 for the last eight minutes, 3-for-10 in the final minute.
"When I got another chance at the free throw line and I missed the first, I said to myself, 'I've got to get this one for the team,' " Hall said.
The Patriots won 48-43 in Millersville last season but the teams didn't meet in the region playoffs, and Annapolis advanced to the state semis.
Last night's Old Mill victory created a three-way tie with Annapolis and No. 8 Meade (14-1) for first place in the Anne Arundel County League. All three are 8-1 in league action.
Pub Date: 1/30/99