COLLEGE PARK -- With more than double the number of turnovers (17) as field goals (eight) at halftime, it seemed the magical mystery tour of Old Mill's No. 13 boys basketball team was just about over.
The taller fourth-seeded Patriots (16-10), making their first Final Four appearance, were eventually dismantled, 64-50, by top-seeded Paint Branch's opportunistic defense, and the shooting of 6-foot-2 Division I prospect Riley Inge (26 points), although the Panthers' did not have a player taller than 6-3.
Despite trailing by as much as 18 in the second and third periods, however, Old Mill made a game of it down the stretch.
Behind 6-3 Austin Johnson (14 points, 10 rebounds), Terell Eldridge (12, 11) and Henry Wilkerson (seven points), the Pats began the fourth period with a 9-2 run, cutting into the 48-37 third-quarter deficit and forcing a Paint Branch timeout with 4:06 left.
Paint Branch regrouped and closed with a 14-2 run for the winning margin, but the Patriots earned the respect of Paint Branch coach Hank Golatta.
"They came out aggressive and took control of the boards," said Golatta, whose Panthers took advantage of 26 turnovers. "It wasn't lack of effort on our part, but Old Mill made it look that way."
In tomorrow's 8 p.m. championship, Paint Branch (23-2) plays No. 2 seed High Point (22-3), a 79-59 winner over No. 3 Crossland (19-5) in the other semifinal.
Old Mill did well to reach the semifinals, considering the dissension among team members before their final regular-season loss to Chesapeake-AA. They quickly regrouped, however, for three consecutive victories -- including wins over Region IV top seed Annapolis and over Meade for the regional title.
"We've had some major problems this year internally, so I'm very pleased with what they've done," said Old Mill coach Paul Bunting. "I don't think that they've embarrassed themselves by any means."
The Patriots trailed 21-8 after the first period, turning the ball over seven times, four by steals. Paint Branch had built an 11-0 lead before the Patriots got their first basket with 3:44 left from Johnson.
Although the Patriots played better in the second quarter, they were unable to close the gap and trailed 35-19 at the half. It didn't help when Old Mill's sharpshooting guard Erik Shepard went down with a knee injury 1:16 before halftime. He returned midway through the third period.
"I think we were just a little nervous," said Eldridge. "We just had to settle it down. We've played people with their quickness before and beat them, but it [our problem] was playing at [Cole Field House for the first time]."
Paint Branch matched its biggest lead, 48-30, in the third period, but Old Mill closed to within 48-37. It might have been even closer, but the Patriots missed four consecutive scoring opportunities in the period's waning moments.