Patriots Measure Up To Best

Old Mill Boys Face Paint Branch In Statesemifinals Today

March 12, 1992|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,Staff writer

When he looked at his team back in November, Old Mill boys basketball coach Paul Bunting couldn't help but notice a few shortcomings.

The team, in general, was small.

"It would be nice to see someone 6-5 or 6-6," he said during preseason practice. "A 6-7 kid transferred into the school, but he plays chess."

But Old Mill (16-9) has played big the last few weeks, winning its first regional championship and a berth in tonight's Class 4A state tournament at the University of Maryland College Park.

Will the fourth-seeded Patriots emerge as kings? Or will they get bumpedoff the board by top-seed Paint Branch (22-2) in their 9 p.m. match?

"I have not seen them (Paint Branch) personally, but what I've heard from several coaches is that we should match up pretty well with them," Bunting said from his Annapolis home Tuesday evening. "From what I understand, their forte is their quickness and press and our biggest asset is our quickness and depth.

"I go 10 or 11 deep on my bench, and from what I understand, they only go about six deep, so that might help us on the (bigger) college court."

And what about thesize factor?

"They're not big, but neither are we," said Bunting.

Paint Branch's 19-year coach, Hank Galotta, has not seen Old Millthis year, but from what he's been told, the Patriots will tower above his troops.

"They'll make us look like midgets," he said. "But I think it's going to be a similar situation for both sides. They don't have an abundance of size, but they'll be bigger than us. It's going to be a game of quick plays. We'll move it around a lot and I assume they will, too."

Paint Branch has been on the move all season since jumping from Class 3A to 4A. The Panthers, ranked No. 9 by the Washington Post, have made an impact on the league this inaugural season, silencing the naysayers and even stunning their coach.

"It's always a difficult transition moving from one level to another, but I think my guys handled it extremely well," said Galotta, whose team advanced to the states by defeating Montgomery Blair, 72-61. "They've played well beyond my wildest imagination."

The Panthers' tallest player and highest scorer this season is guard Riley Inge. The 6-2 senior scored a game-high 22 points in the regional final and averages just over 20 points a game.

A variety of circumstances forced Bunting to shuffle his roster this season, but the seventh-year coach pulled his players together in time to focus on the postseason.

In theregional final, the fifth-seeded Patriots pulled an upset over No. 2-seed Meade -- a team they had beaten three times during the regular season -- winning, 81-73, in double-overtime.

Earning the right toplay Meade was a feat in itself. Old Mill, which had beaten Annapolis only once in its 17-year history, disposed of the top-seeded Panthers, 71-66, in the Class 4A Region IV semifinal last Thursday.

If the Pats get past Paint Branch, they would meet either third-seeded Crossland (19-4) or No. 2 High Point (21-3) in the 8 p.m. final Saturday at Cole Field House.

With seniors Ravon Austin and Erik Sheppardback in the lineup, each averaging 14 points per game, Old Mill has proven it can be a giant killer.

Austin finished with a game-high 28 points in the regional final, while Sheppard stepped in and contributed 16 points, including six in the decisive second overtime.

"Like any coach going into a big game, I'm going in it to win," said Bunting. "But I've told my players all ready. Regardless of the outcome, they have a lot to be proud of."

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