Site -- All games at RAC Arena, UMBC
Old Mill (22-4) vs. Blake (17-5)
When -- Today, 5 p.m.
Outlook -- The No. 6 Patriots are coming off a breakthrough win over perennial state power and county rival Arundel for the first time in coach Craig White's 10 seasons to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 1993. The 77-51 victory over the Wildcats has been the norm this postseason for the Patriots, who have outscored their three Class 4A East opponents by an average of 74-48. Senior C Kiara Thomas (13.8 points, 10.0 rebounds) and senior G Anisha Queen (11.5 points, 2.3 assists) lead a senior-laden group that has plenty of varsity experience. Blake features a quick four-guard set led by freshman Christine Weithman, who averages 11.2 points. White said defense rebounding and intensity have been the key elements to the Patriots' postseason run, and the team's confidence is at an all-time high. "The way we're playing right now, I think we got a good shot at it. I'm very happy for this senior group because not only have they worked hard, but they've made it a year-round sport. This weekend is their time to enjoy all their hard work," he said.
Western (21-4) vs. Fallston (22-4)
When -- Tonight, 9
Outlook -- Both teams have a long history at the state tournament, but neither has brought home a championship since Western in 1995. Coach Tiffany Silver's fifth-ranked Doves are coming off their second straight Baltimore City championship, and the Cougars have won three straight Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference crowns. Look for Western, which lost to River Hill in last season's state final, to try to push the tempo with sophomore G Akeema Richards and senior G Mischa Minor leading the way. Richards averages 14.3 points and 4.5 assists while Minor adds 13.1 points and 3.4 assists. Fallston coach Vern Brown said rebounding, defense and transition will be critical for the No. 12 Cougars, who aren't as athletic overall as the Doves but are equally comfortable running the floor or in the half-court offense. Freshman G Jess Harlee leads the Cougars with an average of 12 points and four assists while senior F Kristen Steiner adds 10 points and nine rebounds.
Atholton (23-3) vs. Walkersville (25-0)
When -- Tomorrow, 3 p.m.
Outlook -- The No. 9 Raiders, who are making their second straight semifinal appearance, have a tall order, going up against a Walkersville team that has four starters 5 feet 10 or taller led by 6-4 senior Samantha Schanuel. To compensate, the Howard County champs will rely on their quickness to apply pressure defense to keep the Lions out of their half-court sets. Atholton coach Maureen Shacreaw is counting on last year's experience and has seen a more mature group work its way to the tournament this season, led by senior G Julie Taylor, who averages 17.6 points, six rebounds and 5.6 assists. Balance is the key to the Raiders' offense with each of the other four starters - all juniors - averaging eight points or more. Brittany Coughlan averages 14 points with three-point range, and 5-10 center Taylor Chapman provides the inside presence with eight points and 11.6 rebounds. "I feel like they're more focused this year, less fooling around and they're more vocal with each other. They believe in themselves, and expectations are higher," Shacreaw said.
Southern (17-5) vs. Poly (16-5)
When -- Tomorrow, 5 p.m.
Outlook -- Southern and 30-year head coach Linda Kilpatrick are making a state-record 13th appearance in the state semifinals, while Poly advances for the first time in school history. Kilpatrick said the Bulldogs' history doesn't mean as much as having the experience of making the trip last year. The Bulldogs like to play up-tempo, relying on their defense for a lot of offense. Senior PG Brittany Wiseman keeps the Bulldogs moving while averaging 14 points. Junior F Heather Schneck leads in scoring with 15 points per game, but she missed the regional finals and continues to battle the flu. The Engineers have a height advantage and should have an edge on the boards. Coach Kendall Peace said everything fell together for the Engineers, who played a tough out-of-league schedule, when they nipped Digital Harbor in overtime three weeks ago. Senior F Teaunsha Robinson averages 17.4 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore G Shenika Johnson adds 10.9 points per game.
New Town (25-1) vs. Pocomoke (18-5)
When -- Tomorrow, 9 p.m.
Outlook -- The No. 8 Titans return to the semifinals for a third straight year, but this time, there is a sense of urgency. For the Titans, who have been a varsity program only three years, this is their seniors' last chance for a state champion banner. They had to vacate their 2005 title because of a geographically ineligible player and they lost in the semifinal last season. With that experience, exceptional speed and a balanced offense, the Titans meet another tournament-savvy team in 2003 champ Pocomoke, which makes its fifth straight semifinal appearance. The Titans won their only previous meeting, in the 2005 semifinals. Neither team has a lot of height, but the Titans appear to have the inside edge, while both teams are quick and shoot well from the perimeter. The Titans are led by G Peju Awodipe (20 points), PG Tyra Breaux (12 points, five assists) and F Lindsey Wallace (10 points, eight rebounds). Monique Douglas (16.4 points) leads the Warriors.