If there were any doubts the Old Mill girls' basketball team is ready for its third and final shot at No. 11 Arundel, the Patriots emphatically erased them in their final tuneup.
The top-seeded Patriots came out fast last night in the first half of their Maryland 4A East Region tournament semifinal against fourth-seeded South River, scoring 23 unanswered points en route to a surprisingly easy 79-41 victory at home.
"The first half was an absolute clinic on basketball," Old Mill Coach Craig White said. "If you enjoy seeing good basketball played -- you had defensive intensity, you had shooting, you had rebounding -- it was well worth the five dollars you paid to get in."
Old Mill (21-4) suffocated the Seahawks with a matchup zone and turned a 12-7 score into a 35-7 rout in less than six minutes. The Patriots ensured they will get another chance to beat Arundel, which defeated them during their only regular season meeting and the Anne Arundel County title. game. "If they play [Saturday] the way they did tonight, they might be hoisting the trophy," South River Coach Dave Klingel said.
When asked after the game what specifically worked for Old Mill in the first half, senior center Kiara Thomas smiled and said: "Everything. Tonight we just had a good night."
The Patriots simply had their way with South River (15-9), which came into the game having won six of its last seven.
They capitalized on their height advantage by pounding the ball inside to Thomas and Ashley Jones for easy baskets. When the Patriots wanted to strike from the outside, they seemed to do so at will. Senior guard Anisha Queen scored a team-high 12 points and led the Patriots' barrage of seven three pointers.
The key, however, was Old Mill's ability to force turnovers out of its matchup zone. The Seahawks turned the ball over on seven straight possessions during Old Mill's decisive first-half run, and they had 25 turnovers through three quarters.
"We just came out strong and made them play our game," Thomas said.
South River guard Jaclyn Nucci, who scored 27 points in the Seahawks' six-point regular-season loss to Old Mill, picked up her third foul just 17 seconds into the second quarter. She finished with 16 points.
"We had [Nucci's] number, but the key was we were pressuring the other guards," White said. "They couldn't handle our pressure up top."
Old Mill immediately turned its focus to Saturday's rematch with Arundel. White hoped his team could somehow bottle up last night's performance and bring it to the regional final.
"We match up very well with Arundel," he said. "If anybody has a chance of beating them on Saturday, it's us."
Old Mill 79, South River 41
Ousted: South River failed to advance to the 4A East Region final for the first time in three seasons.
Up Next: Old Mill meets No. 11 Arundel in the region final tomorrow at Old Mill at 1 p.m.