When the Old Mill boys basketball team played at the Xfinity Center on the campus of the University of Maryland during a camp last summer, coach Mike Francis told his players the goal was to return to College Park.
That goal was achieved, as the Patriots will play in the state semifinals.
Led by a dominating fourth-quarter performance from Avion Robinson, Old Mill defeated Annapolis, 76-65, on Saturday afternoon in the Class 4A East Region final.
Old Mill (21-4) won its fifth region title and first since 2010. The Patriots will play Bladensburg in a Class 4A state semifinal on Thursday.
Robinson, who battled through early foul trouble and had just three points through the first three quarters, erupted for 21 points in the fourth. He scored nine straight points and put the Patriots up for good after the Panthers led by five in the opening minute of the quarter. He finished with 24 points.
“I didn’t want to go home,” Robinson said. “I just tried to do what I could do for my team and everything worked out.”
Robinson scored in a variety of ways in the fourth. He hit six field goals on drives to the basket or short jumpers and got to the foul line 11 times and hit nine.
“He told all the players he didn’t want to lose and he wanted to go to the University of Maryland,” Francis said. “He was a leader, and when he’s leading us and doing everything right everyone else just fills in and plays their roles.”
Daevone Johnson, who hit a free throw with less than a second left to force overtime in Wednesday’s section final victory over Meade, led the Patriots with 27 points. He scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, including six in a span of a little more than a minute that pushed the lead to eight.
“Daveone Johnson is probably our best all-around player, but he doesn’t get credit for it,” Francis said. “He’s all over the stat sheet, and he did his thing by not getting in foul trouble today.”
Mahzi Thames added 10 points for Old Mill, which led the entire first half before the Panthers took their first lead in the third quarter.
Christian Jones capped his stellar career by leading the Panthers with 22 points. After scoring 13 points in the first half, he was held without a field goal and hit nine free throws in the second half as the Patriots switched their defense on him.
“He’s a top talent and an incredible kid,” Annapolis coach Dan Smalley said. “He really cares and he’s going to have a great career in his next step. I’ve known him for four years and he’s a very special kid.”
Jayson Johnson followed with 11 points and Xavier Green scored six points during the third quarter and finished with 10 for the Panthers, who were going for their second straight region title.
After trailing by as many as 13 points in the first half, Annapolis took its first lead early in the third quarter and led by as many as seven.
“It was a game of swings, and they had the last swing,” Smalley said. “They changed their defense on us, and it was probably one of the few times where we lost our poise this year. That got us out of what we were trying to do and we didn’t react very well.”
Annapolis (16-8) 14 16 15 20 — 65
Old Mill (21-4) 21 10 12 33 — 76