It's a wonder Pat Chance wasn't feeling woozy from the unexpected roller coaster ride as she stood in front of the scorer's table at Old Mill.
The Patriots' veteran coach watched her team rattle off the first seven points of yesterday's game against Severna Park, then surrender the next eight in falling behind midway through the first quarter.
Old Mill would trail by as many as seven, 23-16, before scoring 18 of the last 19 points of the opening half to lead, 34-24.
The young Patriots would threaten to pull away one minute, and look prime for the taking the next. But in the end, the Region IV front-runners prevailed, 60-49, to remain unbeaten against 4A competition.
Old Mill is 14-1 overall and 10-0 in the league.
"It would have been nice to put them away, but they were scrappy," Chance said of the Falcons (10-6, 7-4). "We missed a lot of real easy shots underneath, and that made a big difference. But I was happy with the way we hung in there. These kids just don't quit."
Neither does Severna Park, which was down by 15 points late in the third quarter, before Jill Natwick banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer. The Falcons eventually got to within eight points on three separate occasions.
"Old Mill is the cream of the crop this year," Falcons coach Kevin McGrath said.
The game's turning point was the 18-1 run during the second quarter. It coincided with the sudden hot hand of senior guard Sandy Johnson, who sat out the first month of the season with a thigh injury, then remained on the bench for extended periods due to ineffectiveness.
Johnson missed badly on her first three shots yesterday but hit on her next three attempts and finished with a season-high 12 points.
"It's been rough for me," she said. "I'm trying very hard to get back and it's like I'm having to start all over again, but I'm going to stick in there and try.
"Right now it seems like I'm starting to getmy shot back together again."
Johnson's baseline jumper with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first half put Old Mill ahead for good, 25-23. She canned a three-pointer exactly one minute later, and herjumper in the lane allowed the Patriots to take a 34-24 lead into the locker room.
"She's been hurt and a little bit frustrated, but hopefully tonight will be the start of her breaking out," Chance said."She'll be a big help if she can break out."
Sophomore Debbie Dawson also was instrumental during the crucial run, netting six of hereight points. The 6-foot sophomore sank two free throws after rebounding a Johnson miss with 3:39 left in the quarter, then gathered Stacy Himes' errant shot and tied the game, 23-23.
Dawson later countered a free throw from Severna Park's Ann Heiser by hitting twice fromthe line to give Old Mill a 29-24 lead.
Himes led all scorers with 13 points and grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds, including a few in the waning minutes to help stave off the Falcons.
"Stacy's always around the basketball," Chance said of the 5-foot-9 sophomore. "She probably leads us in just about every category -- the most steals, the most points, the most rebounds."
The Patriots also received 11 points from Cindy Davenport, eight from Anne Chicorelli and seven from Denise Zellers.
Severna Park's Lori Habicht scored 12 points. Heiser added nine points, Lori Sharpless eight and Natwick seven. Habicht and Sharpless each buried a pair of three-pointers, and Natwick had another.
The Falcons' Tina Riley was held to four points, but she had 12 rebounds.
Though Severna Park lost to Old Mill for the second time this season -- the Patriots won, 70-57, earlier this month -- McGrath was upbeat afterward.
"We were not playing that well sinceChristmas, so I am very, very happy with this," he said. "If we had faced them on another night earlier this year, we could have been beat by 30 or 40 points -- we were playing that poorly.
"I just hope we can continue climbing because it's a big mountain."
And right now, Old Mill is the king of that mountain.