In more ways than one, Friday night's Glen Burnie-Old Mill boys basketball game was a battle between two teams that were missing a few bricks in this, their rebuilding seasons.
The Patriots (shooting 8-for-25 from the floor) and the Gophers (12-for-31) missed more than a few bricks in a fast-paced but poorly played first half, which took just 30 minutes to complete.
However, the visiting Patriots (2-2), who trailed 25-21 at halftime, turned up their intensity after that, and, in the process, turned their poor shot selection into better decision-making.
The result was a 52-46 victory over the Gophers (1-3).
"I told them to be smart when they shoot, and the intensity level increased in the second half," Old Mill coach Paul Bunting said.
Although eight of last year's top nine players have graduated, Old Mill has been playing competitively. After defeating Queen Anne's, 60-53, in the season opener, the Patriots dropped decisions to Southern and Bowie by a combined five points.
Bunting considers Friday's game another in his team's learning process.
"If they're in a slump, I tell them to keep shooting, but they just needed to make better decisions," he said. "It's OK to pull up on jumpers when you're in a fast break, but not when it's two-on-four."
Despite the play of Glen Burnie's Ted Wolf (10 points), who scored eight points (including two three-pointers) in the third quarter, the Patriots out-scored the Gophers, 17-9, that period.
They built their biggest lead of the game, 35-27, with just under three minutes left in the quarter.
"Basketball's a game of spurts, and they came out real hot in the second half," Glen Burnie coach Terry Bogle said. "Plus, they were getting the chance to shoot one-on-ones, and we weren't."
Free throws were also a big help to the Patriots: They went 11-of-19 at the line, compared with 4-of-5 for the Gophers.
But more of a factor was senior Damien Sewell (17 points, 12 rebounds), who twice brought the Patriots back from deficits.
His put-back in the first quarter tied the game at 19, but even more impressive was when he scored the first five points of the third quarter to give the Patriots a 26-25 lead.
Sewell's left-side 12-footer brought the Patriots to within 25-23. He was fouled going to the hole on his next shot -- which tied the game, 25-25, just two minutes into the period -- and he sank the free throw to give the Patriots the lead.
Wolf's 8-footer gave the Gophers' their final lead, 27-26, seconds later, but the Patriots responded with a 6-0 run on a pair of baskets by Ravon Austin -- the second after making a steal -- and a third basket by Will Crowder.
And when Crowder (six points) left the game with his third foul seconds later, Old Mill's 6-foot-2 junior Austin Johnson came off the bench to score seven points and grab five rebounds in the period.
"Everyone was hyped, and it was easy to get my head into the game," he said. "I thought I did pretty well on the boards."
Senior Nijui Truesdale finished with eight points and two steals, and Shawn Craig had six points. Craig made a steal and drove three-fourths of the court for a crowd-pleasing, double-handed dunk to end the first half.
Glen Burnie's Kyle Hackett and Vernon Osbourne had 10 points each, Dwayne Newton had eight points and Jeff Gross had 10 rebounds, four blocks and two points.
The Gophers trailed, 38-34, to start the fourth and got a pair of free throws from Carton Ash (six points) to come within 38-36.
But the Patriots outscored them, 14-10, the rest of the way for the victory.
"We've only lost to Meade, Broadneck and Old Mill," said Bogle, whose Glen Burnie squad lost about 30 points per game with the graduation of Mike Thibeault -- now at the University of Maryland -- and returned just one senior to the lineup. "If we can cut down on some of our mistakes, then we should be all right by Christmas."