Old Mill forward Cindy Davenport welcomed the competition, even if it almost cost her team dearly.
The top-seeded Patriots were held to a season-low 40 points in yesterday's Class 4A state semifinal, but the play of Davenport and forward Stacy Himes allowed Old Mill to escape with a 40-27 win over fourth-seeded Gaithersburg yesterday at Catonsville Community College.
Davenport scored a season-high 17 points, and Himes added 12, as the defending champions won their 19th straight game. The Trojans (20-6) set a tournament record for fewest points in one contest, breaking the mark of 32 by Sherwood in 1976.
Old Mill (24-1) and second-seeded Bowie (21-4) will vie for the state championship at 3 p.m. tomorrow. Old Mill routed the Bulldogs, 54-34, in the IAABO Christmas tournament.
Except for the first six minutes, Old Mill didn't perform nearly as well yesterday.
The Patriots ran off the game's first 14 points while holding Gaithersburg without a basket until Melissa Simpson's three-pointer with two minutes left in the quarter. But the Trojans outplayed Old Mill the rest of the half, coming within three points before settling for a 21-16 halftime deficit.
For an Old Mill team that has won all but two of its games by double-digit margins, and outscored its two regional playoff opponents by an average of 29 points, the score could have been unsettling.
Instead, it was viewed afterward as extremely beneficial.
"I think a close game like this is going to help us come Saturday [tomorrow]," said Davenport, who also had six rebounds. "We needed the competition badly. We haven't really had much the whole year."
"They're a better team than the kind we've been playing lately," said Old Mill coach Pat Chance.
"The second quarter was a disaster," Chance said. "We were forcing a lot of bad shots. They acted more nervous than the other team, and it very well could be the pressure. Gaithersburg had nothing to lose, while these kids were like, 'If we don't at least get to the state finals, we haven't even had a good season.' "