When we last saw the Old Mill and Annapolis boys basketball teams on the same floor, last year’s Class 4A East Region title was on the line.
While the stakes weren’t nearly as high when the teams met on Tuesday at Old Mill, the game was the first of several showdowns in the county that will play out between now and the end of the season.
Daevone Johnson, who played a key role in the Patriots’ win over the Panthers in last year’s region final, came up big again on Tuesday. The senior guard scored 28 points and grabbed nine rebounds and also ignited a second-quarter run that helped the Patriots build a big lead on their way to an 82-61 victory.
Old Mill (7-3) fell behind 1-0, but never trailed the rest of the way. The Patriots led by 16 at the half and by 15 after three before watching the Panthers get as close as seven midway through the fourth.
“We just thought it was going to be a physical, knock-down-drag-out game,” Old Mill coach Mike Francis said. “We saw them play and felt like they were a very aggressive team and they defended well.”
After the Patriots took a slim four-point lead after one, Johnson scored 10 of his points during Old Mill’s 23-point second quarter. He hit a pair of free throws that started an 11-0 run, then scored eight points over the final three minutes of the quarter that helped pushed the lead to 41-25 at the half. He added 12 more points in the second half, including nine in the fourth quarter.
“Daevone does everything,” Francis said. “We struggle when he struggles.”
The Patriots also got a big boost from Zach Boston, who added 19 points. He had just six points in the first half, but added 13 in the second. He scored seven points over the final three minutes of the game and helped Old Mill battle back from a scoring drought after the Panthers had cut into the lead.
“Zach answered the call tonight,” Francis said. “Zach Boston was the reason we won tonight. If we can get that out of him consistently, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
Avion Robinson added 11 points and had a key assist to Johnson in the fourth after Annapolis made it a 62-55 game. Robinson scored in transition 15 seconds later to push the lead to 12 and the Panthers got no closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Byron Ireland scored 21 points to lead Annapolis (5-5). The Panthers held the Patriots scoreless for a three-minute span late in the third quarter, but were only able to trim a 15-point deficit to 12 during the span.
“We played a little better in the second half, but you can’t miss free throws and layups against a team like Old Mill,” Annapolis coach Dan Smalley said. “They weren’t getting easy shots, so our defense played better. Honestly, though, they were tougher than we were.”