As City standout senior guard Kamau Stokes hobbled off Edmondson's court on Friday, his arms draped over teammates on both sides, it looked as if the No. 1 Knights survived as much as won.
In a physical and intense game played in front of a highly-charged crowd, City started fast and maintained its focus throughout to stay on course for a resilient, 65-57, win over the No. 6 Red Storm.
Stokes, who banged his knee in the closing minutes but was able to return, scored a game-high 20 points. Fellow seniors Omari George and Timmy Bond both added 12. Bond also had nine rebounds, six assists and eight blocked shots.
It marked the end of a challenging and impressive week for the Knights, who claimed a home win against No. 9 Patterson on Tuesday before grinding it out Friday to improve to 17-0 with three regular season games remaining.
"We came together as a team through all the adversity, everything," Stokes said. "We just came together as a team, listened to our coach and was able to excel throughout the game."
The Knights set an early tone by jumping out to a 10-2 lead — baskets coming from four different players, including 3-pointers from George and Bond — and made the Red Storm (13-4) immediately play from behind.
The home team made the score 14-12 on Kani Coles' inside basket with 2:19 to play in the first quarter, but the Knights gradually pulled away with a big second quarter. Stokes opened and ended the quarter with 3-pointers as the Knights took a 33-20 lead at the break.
City's defense appeared to fluster Edmondson, as the Red Storm were limited to six field goals in the first half. In the closing seconds of the second quarter, Edmondson junior forward Robert McClain showed frustration when he threw the ball hastily at the referee after a called foul, and was ejected from the game.
It was the first of two brief outbursts that had a few fans leak onto the court. Police officers on hand quickly restored order.
The Knights maintained a double-digit lead throughout the third quarter — Aaron Williams' two free throws giving them their biggest lead at 42-26 with 4:15 left — and then the visitors had answers when the Red Storm cut into the deficit.
With the lead down to nine with 3:01 left, Stokes scored a follow basket and was fouled, before converting the 3-point play for a 60-48 advantage.
City coach Daryl Wade said the Knights' experience showed up in a big way.
"We've been in tough games like this where we weren't able to pull them out [last year]. Versus Edmondson, we were up and couldn't finish," he said. "The guys — three years on varsity for most of them — they've seen it all, played big-time ball through high school, through AAU. So they know how to win now and that's what basketball is, knowing how to win. You can be good, but you still have to know how to win."
Edmondson senior guard Sean Burke scored a team-high 14 points and the Red Storm had three others reach double figures.
1 City 65 , 6 Edmondson 57
C – George 12, Stokes 20, Bond 12, Jo. Grant 6, Davis 3, Williams 4, Ju. Grant 5, Miller 3.Totals: 16 29-38 65.
E – Burke 14, Lassiter 11, Coles 10, Wattie 13, Lloyd 4, Garrett 1, Jones-Harris 4. Totals: 14 24-37 57
Half: C, 33-20