The Meade and Old Mill girls basketball teams waited a year and 10 months to meet again, clashing like thunderclouds crackling with energy.
In a war of wills, the Patriots stuck to their plan and executed, ultimately edging past their crosstown rivals, 55-51, in the first game back from the holiday break to stay undefeated.
“I just think that this was our most competitive game this season,” said junior Amaya Douglas, who led Old Mill with 19 points, “and we were [ready] for it and we came out.”
Controversy clouded the rivals’ last meeting, all the way back on March 2, 2020. Though Meade downed Old Mill in the Class 4A East Region I semifinal, an ineligible player on the Mustangs’ squad cost them the win and a spot in the postseason. Several players on each current roster were part of that game.
“We prepared for them. We knew how their guards were, how their bigs were,” Douglas said. “We knew what we had and we used it to our advantage.”
Old Mill (5-0) journeys into the thick of its schedule now, with unbeaten Glen Burnie up next Friday. Lessons garnered from Thursday’s game will stick with them, especially after Meade rallied in the fourth quarter.
“We gotta execute our offense a little better. We got caught watching the ball, so they got some transition baskets they shouldn’t have got,” Old Mill coach Henry Fuller said. “In practice, we want to rotate up top and getting back for defense so we can stop that transition.”
Turnovers clogged up both offenses for much of the first quarter, with Douglas’ free throw serving as the lone point for three minutes.
Finally, Meade earned the break it needed; a foul call on the Patriots’ Saniya Hymes placed guard Jaela Reid at the line.
The Mustangs started strong, namely senior guard Carlissa Hill, who scored seven straight points to give the visitors an 8-1 lead.
Fierce was the operative word Thursday night. The neighboring programs attacked for jump balls and rebounds. Possession never seemed to linger in one side’s control for long, and yet, Old Mill could not land a single basket. At least, not until 6 ½ minutes in, when freshman Jemirah Brown stripped Meade and scored to make it 11-4.
“We had to pick it up. We had to get our head in the game, stop making careless mistakes,” Douglas said.
The Patriots only trailed 12-7 at the end of the first, a margin swiftly shut by junior Lauryn Anderson, who nailed two jumpers and a free throw to make it 12-12. Douglas and Neveah Brown took the torch from there, hitting two 3-pointers and a jumper to give Old Mill its first lead since 1-0.
By the time Meade rushed to the sideline for halftime, their hosts had cultivated a 10-point lead, 29-19. The Patriots outscored the Mustangs 22-7 in the second quarter.
Fuller recognized the rivalry-fueled anxiety that impacted Old Mill in the first quarter. A plan of action for the second helped melt some of that away.
“We wanted to put more pressure on the ball, keep the ball out of their main ball-handler,” he said, “and make turnovers to get us into the transition.”
Douglas said her Patriots grounded themselves, became more aware of the time, the Mustangs’ positioning and the shot clock.
“And everyone stepped up,” Douglas said.
Meade wasn’t choking on the dust. It had all the pieces to close the gap in the third quarter, from passing to rebounding to forcing turnovers. All the pieces, except consistently finishing quality baskets.
That isn’t to say Old Mill continued its deluge, but it didn’t need to. Even as the Mustangs began stringing a few points together, the hosts still led comfortably, 41-29, at the end of the third quarter.
A good thing, too, as things became less comfortable in the fourth. Meade outscored the Patriots, 22-14, and drew just five fouls compared with 10 against Old Mill. But still, the Patriots held.
“It was a difficult game because of the fouling situation. But I’m really proud of them,” Fuller said, “because they shook their anxiety and we executed at the end.”