For the first three-plus quarters of Saturday's Baltimore City Division I boys basketball championship game, scrappy Lake Clifton was doing all the little things a little bit better against No. 1 and undefeated City.
And then, City senior guards Kamau Stokes and Omari George had seen enough.
First it was Stokes who hit a big 3-pointer. Then it was George's turn. He scrapped for an offensive rebound, got fouled and made two free throws.
The next possession George did the same, this time making the follow shot and converting a three-point play. He would score the next basket inside, too.
The 10 straight points, covering less than two minutes in the middle of the fourth quarter, would be the difference as the Knights claimed a thrilling, 48-42, win over the Lakers to capture the Baltimore City crown in front of an announced 2,000 at Morgan State's Hill Field House.
City improves to 22-0 on the season after beating the Lakers (19-3) for the second time this season.
George finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, and four assist to lead the Knights, with Stokes and John Grant both adding 11. Lake Clifton got an 11-point effort from Montague Wright.
“I knew the end of the game was what was going to count most, and I knew Lake Clifton is a very aggressive team, so we had to match their intensity. So the last quarter, I just focused on getting rebounds, and getting to the ball and staying aggressive,” George said. “It’s definitely a great feeling, but we’re not satisfied. We got to get the region championship and then the state championship. There’s no holding back.”
Stokes' 3-pointer cut the Lakers' lead to 31-30 with 7:16 to play, and George's seven straight points provided the Knights with a 37-31 lead with 5:37 left.
There was still work to be done, with the Lakers cutting the lead to 37-35 with 2:41 left. But Timmy Bond, the third City standout guard, alertly tipped in a missed shot to start a 7-0 run to put the game away. After a 65-55 win against the Lakers in the regular season on Jan. 8 – in a game that was tied 47 in the fourth quarter – Bond knew the Lakers would be coming hard.
“We knew Lake was going to come with intensity, so we had to play through it and keep our composure,” Bond said. “This feels great. This is my first one, so I’m going to enjoy this one until tomorrow and then get states.”
A well played and tightly-contested first half had the Knights take a 21-20 halftime lead, with Grant leading the way with seven points.
Trailing 14-11 after the first quarter, the Lakers — patient on offense and controlling the defensive boards — went on a 9-2 run to take the half's biggest lead at 20-16 with 4:37 to play.
Stephon Brown and Wright hit 3-pointers to increase the Lakers' lead.
City responded, scoring the final five points of the half with Stokes scoring an easy two points after a steal and assist from Blair Davis before Bond hit a 3-pointer with 1:31 left to make it 21-20.
The Knights didn't get their first offensive rebound until there was 3:45 to play in the half.
Lake Clifton slowed the pace in the third quarter to methodically build a 27-22 lead — its biggest — when Elijah Kess hit a 3-pointer with 3:36 left. Stokes answered with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 27-25 going into the fourth quarter.
Baltimore City Division I championship
(at Morgan State University).
No. 1 City 48, No. 3 Lake Clifton 42
LC – Winder 2, Green 7, Parks 9, Kess 6, Wright 11, Brown 7. Totals: 14 13-28 48.
C – Jo. Grant 11, Stokes 11, Davis 4, George 12, Bond 9, Williams 1. Totals: 14 10-17 42.
Half: C, 21-20