Depth helping Old Mill reach new heights Patriots shooting for 3rd straight title

January 10, 1993|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,Staff Writer

When Old Mill girls basketball coach Pat Chance looked at her team before the season, she said the Patriots were so good, they were scary.

Playing Old Mill has been frightening for a number of opponents this winter, including Southern.

"They're very good. You've got every player on the floor with experience, and every player coming off the bench with experience," said Bulldogs coach Linda Kilpatrick, after her team had become the latest victim, 71-28, Friday afternoon.

"Every ingredient that you need, they have there."

Kilpatrick isn't alone in making this assessment after a meeting with the two-time defending 4A state champions.

After seven games, the Patriots are 6-1 and ranked No. 2 in the metro area, behind Western. Their only loss came against

unbeaten National Cathedral, 61-59, in overtime in the semifinals of the IAABO holiday tournament, but this was one day after their finest moment, a 56-46 win over then-No. 2 Hammond, the defending 2A state champions.

"That game definitely helped our confidence," said senior guard Christine Baer, one of five players who have been on the varsity for four seasons. "We had only played two games. We needed the game experience, and winning it was big."

Senior Anne Chicorelli, a 6-foot-1 forward, took the opposite view, calling it "just another game."

"Ms. Chance says what matters is the ranking at the end of the season," she said. "Where you are now doesn't determine how you'd do at the end of the year."

The Patriots are doing just fine, thanks in part to the same balance that has keyed their title runs over the past two seasons. On Friday, it was junior guard Michelle Salmon's 16 points that proved Southern's undoing. On Tuesday, it was Chicorelli's 22 points that spurred a 68-21 rout of South River.

Baer had 18 points in the win over Hammond, and 6-1 senior

forward Debbie Dawson scored 26 in a 69-51 victory over Laurel in the IAABO consolation game. Stacy Himes, a 5-10 swingman, had 17 points in the loss to National Cathedral, and 15 in a 72-41 blowout over Frederick.

In the National Cathedral game, when Old Mill blew a 19-point lead and had its winning streak stopped at 23 games, 5-10 senior forward Allison Wentworth took a pass from Lee Ann Lezzer and hit a short jumper with six seconds left to force overtime.

Every game, it's a different player coming through in the clutch.

"Ms. Chance stresses that a lot," said Chicorelli, who scored 20 points in the season opener, a 65-41 win over Thomas Johnson. "If one of us isn't playing well, someone else needs to come up big. Someone else will pick it up, come up with the big rebound or whatever."

Chance said, "When I look at these players, they're good basketball players, but they're not blue-chip basketball players. They're good, and what makes them even better is when they play smart, when they play together.

"I tell them that we're going to have to go with what [the opponent] gives us. There will be some nights where teams are going to try to stop our inside game, and we'll depend on our outside people to shoot. And if they leave our inside people open, we have a height advantage."

The starting five has consisted of Chicorelli, Dawson, Himes, Baer and Lezzer. But Chance stresses the importance of everyone contributing.

"A lot of kids can't come in off the bench," she said. "I've had some kids that I've started, not because they were better, but because they just couldn't sit for four or five minutes and then come in and contribute. Alli [Wentworth] has done a great job for us in every game. Michelle can do that for us, too."

Before anyone concedes another championship to Old Mill, there's Western to consider.

The Doves, like other Baltimore City schools, joined the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association and are eligible for the state tournament. The path isn't as clear as before.

But Old Mill remains the overwhelming favorite to win its region. And to continue its rampage through the county.

In other words, it's still business as usual. And it's still a season filled with worries for Chance, even when it appears that she has little reason for concern.

"I constantly remind them that they can't go in with a letdown, they can't figure, 'Well, all we have to do is walk in, and they'll see Old Mill on our shirts and they're going to let us have the game,' " she said.

"It's going to be just the opposite. They're going to say, 'Hey look, we can beat you.' They're coming in with upset on their minds."

NB But, most likely, they will leave with a loss on their record.

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