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," 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. "We haven't had a lot of competition where we've had to pick it up, but today, when we had to, we did it."
Unable to gain easy transition baskets off its zone trap, Old Mill only scored five points in the second quarter and was out-rebounded 19-14 in the first half.
"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.' "
A jumper by Noell White cut Old Mill's lead to 23-21 with 4:30 left in the third quarter, but Himes buried a three-pointer, blocked an Erin Gorely shot and passed to Davenport for a layup that moved the Patriots further ahead, 28-21.
Christine Baer drove the baseline and scored off the glass with one minute left, and Himes made two free throws to give Old Mill its biggest lead, 32-21, since the first quarter.
"We got a little worried, but we also knew if we made a few shots and kept working hard, we'd keep the lead," said Himes, who had to leave the game briefly in the fourth quarter after twisting her left knee. She opened the quarter with another three-pointer that gave Old Mill a 35-23 lead, and Gaithersburg could get no closer than 10 points, 37-27, the rest of the way.
Himes also contributed eight rebounds and two blocks. The Trojans received seven points from sophomore forward Jenny Higgins.
In the earlier semifinal, senior forward Becky Greenfield scored 22 points and senior center Amy Ford added 13 to lead Bowie past third-seeded Laurel, 57-39. Most of the Spartans' offense came from junior guard Nicole Mamula, who scored 32 of her team's 39 points on 13 of 31 shooting.