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Not again for the Thomas Stone Cougars.

Despite relying on a new cast of characters in the state playoffs at the University of Maryland’s Comcast Center in College Park an all-too familiar ending kept Stone from appropriately capping another stellar season that included a dominating run through the regional playoffs.

Stone entered the state playoffs with the look of a champion.

And by halftime of March 10’s Class 3A state championship game, Stone was in control with a nine-point lead over the greater-hyped Patterson Clippers of Baltimore, headlined by YouTube sensation point guard Aquille Carr.

Like two of its previous three state playoffs exits the last four years, Stone was unable to hold a second-half lead that stretched into the fourth quarter, as Patterson benefited from the letdown this go-round.

Patterson outscored Stone by 10 points in each of the final two quarters to erase deficits of 11 and three points, respectively, early in each period.

Just one field goal for almost a 5 1/2-minute stretch of the fourth doomed Stone, which settled for being the state runner-up for the third time in five years with an 86-75 setback to Patterson.

“Every year is different and each team is different, and I can honestly say this group probably didn’t think this band of guys would ever get this far,” 11-year Stone head coach Dale Lamberth said in the postgame press conference following his latest state final. “So every year this happens [where we come up short], you just have to look at the group that’s here and kind of appreciate it. No one likes losing. This group didn’t come up here to lose a ballgame.”

Lamberth also noted that he does not have sleepless nights wondering what could have been with his teams at states.

“Starting [last] summer, our goal was to be here and win a state championship,” he added. “You’re always close, but you can’t win it if you’re not here. I don’t look at [our state playoff losses] as a hurdle. That’s no consolation [just to be here].”

Stone (25-2 overall) was a part of an unprecedented four boys and girls basketball teams from the county that went to state playoffs after winning their respective regions.

Stone was also the only team in Maryland to beat then-defending 4A state champion North Point during the regular season of the 2011-12 campaign.

DALLAS COGLE