Paul Bunting spent part of his post-game talk Friday night reminding his Old Mill boys basketball team of the importance of avoiding crucial letdowns that could have averted a close loss to Bowie.
Failure to box out on must-have rebounds late in the fourth quarter.
Missing the easy shot underneath. Poor passes when trying to break a half-court trap with the chance to tie the game or go ahead.
The Patriots' biggest mistake, however, was not locking the gymnasium doors before Bowie senior Mike James entered.
James netted 36 points -- including 13-of-17 shooting from the line -- to lead the visiting Bulldogs to a 81-78 win and even both teams' records at 1-1.
James, a 6-foot-3 forward, had 42 points earlier in the week in a 77-70 loss to Bladensburg. He had 31 points last year against Old Mill.
"At least we held him to 36," Bunting joked.
"If we could just keep the ball out of his hands . . .," he said. "He's lightning quick, he's strong. He's a good player."
Old Mill lost a host of good players from last year's regional semifinalist team to graduation -- eight of its top nine departed -- but fortunately for Bunting, Ravon Austin returned.
The 6-foot junior guard, who spent a portion of last year on the junior varsity, was one of four Patriots in double figures, scoring a team-high 23 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
"Coach tells me to keep shooting, even if I miss," he said.
Senior Damien Sewell added 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks; senior Will Crowder had 14 points and 10 rebounds; and senior Nijui Truesdale racked up 11 points.
Senior Shawn Craig, Old Mill's tallest player at 6-3, had a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Patriots, a 60-53 winner over Queen Anne's Wednesday, led only twice Friday, the last time 46-44 midway through the third quarter. Having stayed within a couple of points most of the way, they fell behind by eight on two of James' free throws with just under three minutes remaining. Some fans began heading for the exits, but the game was far from over.
After Austin sank a free throw, Sewell made a steal and layup and was fouled by Bowie's Peter Fitzmaurice. He converted the three-point play, and Old Mill trailed, 72-68.
"The best thing I can say about the teams I've coached at Old Mill is they do not quit. That's a great reflection on them," said Bunting, now in his sixth season. "When they went down eight points again, they could have folded. A lot of teams would have after fighting back and fighting back.
People were walking out of the gymnasium. That's a mental thing on them and they hung tough."
After Bowie's Demardias Smith scored his only basket of the night, Truesdale was called for a charging foul with two minutes left that nullified a field goal. Crowder would sink two free throws, but Fitzmaurice followed his own miss, and James and Kevin Lancaster (13 points) converted from the line to preserve the Bulldogs' lead.
"We couldn't stop them when we needed to," Bunting said.
Bowie led, 81-72, with 15 seconds left, but Truesdale and Crowder buried desperation three-pointers.
The visitors went up by as many as 14 points in the first half, when Dave Clark scored off a James outlet pass to give Bowie a 30-16 lead. But Old Mill went on a 13-2 run to get back into the game.
The Patriots out-rebounded Bowie, 47-40. Though they shot only 38 percent from the floor (23 of 60), they were 29 of 38 from the free-throw line.
After two games, Bunting said, Old Mill is "much better than I anticipated."
Sewell went a step further, saying, "We're doing good. We could beat just about all the teams in our division if we keep playing like this."
The Patriots venture outside the 4A League next Friday when they visit 2A Southern.
Old Mill junior varsity fell to 0-2 with a 91-64 loss to Bowie. Patriots guards Jeff Robinson and John Chadwick each had 11 points, while forward Troy Green added 10.