Denise Zellers remembers sitting in Catonsville Community College's field house as a seventh-grader and watching intently as Old Mill wonits first state championship in girls basketball.
Five years later, the senior guard is hoping history will repeat itself.
The Patriots (22-2) are seeded second heading into tomorrow afternoon's Class 4A state semifinal game with third-seeded Largo (19-5) of Prince George's County, an opponent Zellers admits she knows littleabout.
"They have some girls who play street ball, and they'll shoot from anywhere and they hustle," she said during a Monday afternoon practice in Old Mill's gymnasium. "I also hear they're quick and they press, but I don't know that much else about them. It's like goingin there blindfolded."
It appears the Patriots are shooting that way of late, going 33 of 113 from the floor in two region playoff games last week.
Though they won both contests by an average of 13 points, Coach Pat Chance spent much of the 2-hour, 15-minute practice working on their perimeter game. Relying on the team's defense to carry it through the states, she reasoned, could spell a quick exit.
"I don't know why our offense isn't doing well. I don't know if it's nerves or what," Chance said. "If they could come out and hit some outside shots and get some confidence back into themselves, I think it'll go.
"The first part of the year, we were shooting well from the outside and we were getting some inside shots. Now, they're just not falling. Why, I don't know. We're not doing anything differently.
"I guess it's one of those questions that if someone could answer it,they could make a million dollars."
Chance would settle for someone making a few jumpers.
"Maybe we've become more timid," reasonedguard Lee Ann Lezzer, one of six sophomores on the roster and a three-point threat. "It just came suddenly. They're not going in, and that's put a damper on how we feel about ourselves. We have to get our self-esteem up for the tournament. I'm sure we will."
Tomorrow's game marks Old Mill's third appearance in the states and the first since the 1985-1986 championship season, when the Patriots had four senior starters, including three frontcourt players -- Robin Stoffel, Sue Hopper and Tanya Dailey -- standing 6 feet or taller.
The team Largo will face is decidedly younger than its predecessor -- three sophomores and one junior start -- and only one player, Debbie Dawson, is over 5-11.
"I think we have more depth, but whether we have five better ballplayers to go against those five, that would be kind of hard to say," Chance said.
"And it's not fair to say they're where the others were, or could get where the others were, because I just think that's putting pressure on them, that they feel they have to live up to that. They have to develop their own personality and their own style and do their own thing."
The Patriots must contend with a Largo team that may have the edge in quickness, but is decidedly smaller.
No one in the starting lineup is over 5-9, and center Camille Joyner (18 points a game) only stands 5-7, though she was a first-teamAll-Metro selection in the Washington area last year.
"Personally, I like quicker teams," said Old Mill 5-9 junior Cindy Davenport. "Ican get up and down the court much better than having to front someone who's 6-foot-2."
The Lions' strength lies in its backcourt, with 5-3 senior point guard Nicole Stone and 5-7 wing Keisha McCatty, the team's leading scorer at 19 points a game, who is recovering from a thigh injury.
"We might see the best guards we've seen all year," Chance said.
"They have a nice little club. They're balanced," said Severna Park coach Kevin McGrath, whose Falcons were soundly beaten by Largo, 63-44, on Dec. 7.
"They have a very quick point guard, and the wing can shoot three-pointers," he said.
The Lions oftenplay what Chance calls "a total, flat-out street-ball-type game." But will that style work against a more disciplined Old Mill team?
Will they even try it?
"They could get up there and play against us, being a more structured-type team, and they might totally change," Chance said.
"They might be geared toward who they play. We just have to wait and see, try to do the things we do well, be prepared to play against the man-to-man and zone. And of course, we will be prepared to play against the press because we press, so we work on it all the time."
Largo's greatest advantage may be in state playoff familiarity, having reached the finals last year before losing to Broadneck, 57-52.
"Going into Catonsville is an experience, and just how big it is could overwhelm us," Lezzer said.
"But from watching other people play there, we got a feel for what it will be like. We can't get scared. Getting scared and getting nervous doesn't help. We have to keep focused on what we have to do and not worry about where we are."
Zellers, the lone senior starter, said, "I'm kind of worriedabout how everybody is going to act. I've been there once, and I know the place is a lot bigger and how different it's going to be for everybody. I'm hoping nerves don't play a factor.
"I was thinking about talking to Sandy (Johnson, the Patriots' only other senior) aboutmeeting with everybody the night before and making sure they're OK about going."
Chance said, "I think it's going to be an experience for them all-around. Whether it's going to be a winning, successful experience remains to be seen, but I think we can be competitive with the other teams if we play well.
"And with this crew, I don't expect it to be our last trip there."