The Old Mill girls basketball players wandered into the Catonsville Community College gymnasium for the state Class 4A tournament semifinals and were awe-struck.
Not by its spaciousness, and not by the boisterous crowd. The Patriots were amazed athletic director Jim Dillon had given each of them a red rose before the game.
Even with three sophomores in the starting lineup, the "What? Me worry?" Patriots (23-2) raced to a 15-1 lead. They rolled on to overwhelm Largo, 68-40, and advance to tomorrow's 4A finals against Springbrook, a 68-35 winner over Frederick.
For veteran Old Mill coach Pat Chance, the victory was expected. The margin was not.
Chance may have young players, but sophomore Stacy Himes played more like a senior, getting nine points and 13 rebounds in only 23 minutes of action.
The big gym was no problem.
"I played at Temple in the Youth Games," said Himes, who has led the Patriots in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals all season. "With my AAU team, we played at Florida. I live for basketball and love playing as much as I can."
Ironically, Himes took herself out for a brief rest in the third quarter as Largo had trimmed a 20-point deficit to six.
Chance replaced her with senior Sandy Johnson, a starter last year who tore a muscle in her thigh at the beginning of the season.
"Sandy's not 100 percent," said Chance. "She just never recovered from her injury."
Perhaps not, but last night, Johnson promptly sank a three-point shot, then stole the ball and drove for another basket.
That was the spark the Patriots needed as Himes returned to help with the ensuing 11-2 run.
In tomorrow's 3 p.m. game, Old Mill will have to slow Cindy Weisman and Lora Aggour of Springbrook (24-1). Those two dominated Frederick, scoring 24 and 16 points, respectively. The Cadets were without Latoya Hall, who scored 30 points in the region finals against Woodlawn last Saturday. Hall was declared academically ineligible on Monday.