Both coaches approached the beginning of their respective seasons the way one might venture through a pack of wild dogs.
With extreme trepidation.
Pat Chance said her Old Mill girls were "starting over," and yearned for an extra week's preparation.
Paul Bunting, meanwhile, lamented the departure of eight of his top nine players from last winter and projected a .500 finish for the Old Mill boys.
What we have here are two ultra-conservative individuals, or absolute miracle workers. Maybe both.
The Old Mill girls improved to 14-1 after Friday's 46-32 victory over visiting Broadneck. Afterward, Bruins coach Bruce Springer called the Patriots "the best team in the county," a label Broadneck has worn during its last two state-championship seasons.
In the nightcap, Bunting's crew raised its record to 11-3 with a 68-59 win over Broadneck, completing a trifecta that also includes victories over Annapolis and Meade.
Chance still isn't completely satisfied with her team, and she had a sound argument Friday after Old Millstumbled with nearly every trip to the free-throw line.
"I can't even watch these anymore," she said during the first half, turning toward the opposite end of the gymnasium as another of her players clanked two foul shots off the rim.
Old Mill was extremely charitable from the stripe, going 5-for-19. In the first half, when the Patriotscould have opened a huge margin with their relentless defense, they were just 4-for-16.
Rather than putting ample distance between themselves and Broadneck, the hosts needed a Lee Ann Lezzer three-pointer in the final seconds to go up by 11, 25-14, at halftime.
"We should have had at least six more points on foul shooting," Chance said,giving a conservative estimate. "I really don't know why we're so poor. We practice them and we don't really have any poor shooters. Right now we might be pressing too hard. It just all of a sudden went down."
There wasn't much else for her to fret over.
Every Broadneck pass was an adventure, with the quicker Patriots working the angleslike skilled billiards players.
"There were some things we didn'tdo well," Chance said, "but, by and large, it was probably one of our better defensive games."
Springer said, "I don't think we executed real well. Our passing wasn't good. We weren't real sure of ourselves out there, where we were going and what we were doing, and that surprised me a little bit."
What didn't surprise him was the numberof Patriots who contributed to the victory. They came at his team inwaves, a never-ending supply of bodies disrupting his offense and churning out points.
"They have so much depth," Springer said. "Theyhave people coming off the bench who are as good as the players who start. They just kind of wear you down."
Ten different Patriots scored, led by junior Cindy Davenport with 14 points. The 5-foot-9 forward also grabbed 10 rebounds, venturing inside to outplay and help thoroughly frustrate Broadneck's taller frontcourt.
The Bruins' Andrea Macey, Jen Chapman and Theresa Cornish combined for only 20 points, with Macey leading the way with 10.
"We just kind of fronted them and did everything we could to stop the inside passing," Davenport said.
Chance said, "Cindy's obviously not as tall as they are, butshe's very quick. She sneaks in there. She's kind of wormy, which doesn't sound like a nice thing to say, but it's true. She weaves in and out and the next thing you know, there she is, and it's like, 'Oh my God, where did she come from?'
"She doesn't present a big target, but all of a sudden she's there."
Old Mill sophomore guards Stacy Himes and Christine Baer added 10 and six points, respectively.
Last season, the Patriots surprised many by winning 18 games and making the region finals, where they lost to Broadneck. Davenport doesn'tsee any reason why they can't go even further this year.
"I thinklast year we may have been too young, but now we have one more year's experience," she said. "We've all developed more and we're coming together now and we have a chance to be state champions."
Her coachprobably would cringe at such talk.
Bunting only cringes when reminded of his dismal preseason forecast.
"Before anyone asks, yes, I'm as surprised as you guys to be in this situation," he said to a group of reporters. "At the beginning of the year, I said it and I meant it -- how could you expect us to be as good as we were the year before when we lose eight of our top nine?"
He then speaks of the surprising progress of such unknowns as 6-foot-3 center Shawn Craig, forward Will Crowder and guards Ravon Austin and Nijui Truesdale.
Austin scored 17 of his game-high 21 points in the second half, enabling Old Mill to overcome a 30-25 halftime deficit.
So what does it mean for Old Mill to have slain another 4A League giant?
Austin is quick with a reply. "It means we can play with all of them, and we'reNo. 1."