When Old Mill sophomore guard Ciarra Lucas finished off a gutsy drive early in the second quarter of yesterday's Class 4A state semifinal game against Blake, she pumped her fist as she approached the foul line looking to complete the three-point play.
It resembled the positive energy that typified the team's impressive run through the East region. Unfortunately for the No. 6 Patriots, there weren't enough of those moments yesterday in their 55-41 loss to the Bengals at UMBC's RAC Arena.
Unsettled at the start and bothered by Blake's feisty man-to-man defense, the Patriots managed only three points in a frustrating first quarter. The Bengals, from Montgomery County, took full advantage, taking a 17-point lead into the second quarter and coasting to tomorrow's title game.
Old Mill, which knocked off Arundel to win its first region title since 1993, ended its season with a 22-5 record. After averaging 74 points in their three regional playoff wins, the Patriots shot only 31 percent from the field and went 1-for-12 in the pivotal first quarter to go with seven turnovers. They played the game without starting forward Ashley Jones, who was removed from the team yesterday for disciplinary reasons, according to coach Craig White.
"I was disappointed in the fact that we were unable to match their intensity right off the bat. Were we surprised by the fact that it was 20-3 at the end of the first quarter? Yes, we were. And that hole was a little too big to dig out of for the rest of the three quarters," White said.
Blake, making its first state tournament appearance, will take on Eleanor Roosevelt in tomorrow's title game set for 3 p.m. at UMBC. The Bengals didn't look like first-timers yesterday, disrupting on defense and dissecting the Patriots' zone with crisp passing and good shooting to build the early lead. Molly Wannen scored 14 points with Danielle Douglas and Christine Weithman adding 11.
Old Mill didn't give up despite trailing 47-20 with under two minutes to play in the third quarter. Behind a 17-point performance from senior center Kiara Thomas, the Patriots cut the lead to 49-37 with 3:35 left before Weithman hit consecutive baskets.
Patriots senior guard Anisha Queen couldn't pinpoint the reason for the slow start.
"Excited, yes. But nervous - not necessarily," she said. "I thought we were pretty confident coming in after a big win last Saturday. It was pretty hard after getting down by a certain amount. But we didn't give up - that's the kind of team we are."