The stage was set for defending Virginia AAA champion West Springfield and runner-up Robinson to meet in the final of the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. But the much-anticipated rematch was delayed after the No. 3 Rams (7-1) suffered their first loss of the season, 49-48, to Our Lady of Lourdes (Fla.) in the tournament's first round.

No. 7 West Springfield (9-1) won the four-day event, defeating Lourdes in the final, 38-31.

Instead, the two area teams will meet Tuesday in a 7 p.m. game at West Springfield. The Spartans defeated Robinson four times last season, including a 60-38 victory in the state title game. But Robinson returned all five of its starters from last season while West Springfield lost guard Kara Lawson, The Post's 1999 All-Met player of the year. Lawson now plays at Tennessee.

"[West Springfield] is a dangerous team," Robinson Coach Dwight Trimmer said. "They are a team that has some scoring problems. But they are playing well together and playing well defensively. It will be an emotional game. Ironically, we are still playing in their shadow."

The Spartans' defense earned them the title in the Palms Classic, according to Trimmer. He also called Robinson's loss to Lourdes "bizarre." The Rams had control of the game until the last six seconds, when Lourdes guard Patty Munoz made a three-pointer for the victory.

"We had the [lead] for the whole game," Trimmer said. "We outplayed them the whole way. But we turned the ball over in key situations. All those things are factors in a low-scoring close game."

Meade Coach Resigns

Meade Coach Phil Popielski resigned last week in a dispute over a five-game suspension he received from school administrators after being ejected from a game on Dec. 21, according to a report in the Annapolis Capital.

Meade Athletic Director Sam Pandullo declined to comment about the report, while attempts to reach Popielski by phone were unsuccessful. Assistant coach Royal Webster has been named the interim head coach.

Popielski received the five-game suspension after he was called for three technical fouls and ejected during Meade's 66-49 win over Southern. Arundel County rules require a coach to serve a one-game suspension for an ejection, but Meade assistant principal Dave Strothers increased the penalty to five games.

The Capital article quoted Popielski as saying "he lost it" after receiving the second technical, but felt the additional suspension by Meade administrators was unfair.

Rare Meeting

The championship game of the Holiday Hoops Invitational tournament at Anne Arundel County Community College last Wednesday featured a rare meeting between No. 5 Suitland--the defending Maryland 4A champion--and No. 2 St. John's, the defending City Title champion.

St. John's (9-1) won, 51-41, behind the play of MVP sophomore guard Dawn Chriss, who had 15 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals. She averaged 17 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists over the three-day tournament.

Missing in Action

Glenelg received a surprise phone call at the end of last Monday's practice. It was the Aberdeen Holiday Tournament asking where they were. According to Glenelg Coach Ciaran Lesikar, the Howard County school received confirmation that the tournament would start Tuesday, so it missed its scheduled game Monday against Oxon Hill. Glenelg (5-2) played the consolation game the next day against Aberdeen and won, 67-23.

"I'm upset about it, but there's nothing I could do," Lesikar said. "Live and learn."

Entsminger in 300 Club

North County Coach Sue Entsminger earned her 300th career victory when the Knights defeated Calvert, 44-25, on Wednesday in a consolation game at the Fred Stauffer Tournament in Annapolis to end a four-game losing streak.

"Thank God," Entsminger said of the victory. "The county newspaper wrote a nice piece about it and it was almost like the kiss of death. You just can't quite get over it."

Special correspondent Nathan Max contributed to this report.