As the area's No. 1 team, City is going to have to get used to playing with a bull's eye on its back, especially in the neighborhood showdowns of the Baltimore City league.
The visiting Knights got all they could handle against No. 13 Lake Clifton in a raucous gymnasium filled to capacity, and managed to pull away midway through the fourth quarter with some crucial free throws and timely takeaways to pull out the 65-55 victory.
The Knights improved to 9-0, but coach Daryl Wade expects a better effort from his team going forward.
"We did not play City College basketball, but kudos to Lake Clifton because they did what they were supposed to," Wade said. "They just got after it. They were really aggressive and they put us in a hard place."
Timmy Bond led City with 21 points, Omari George added 15 and Kamau Stokes finished with 12. Stephon Brown stepped up big for Lake Clifton with 14 points. Elijah Kess, Joshua Parks and Derrick Green each had 10 points for the Lakers (6-1 overall, 1-1 league).
City led until Brown opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to give the Lakers a 40-39 lead. The Knights managed to regain the lead before Brown hit another 3-pointer with 4:01 left that tied the game at 47.
From there, the Knights regrouped and went on an 11-4 run to take command with George, Bond and Blair Davis combining for all of those points. City was never threatened the rest of the game and Bond sealed the victory with a dunk at the final buzzer.
"Just knowing we are the number one team, we have to come hard every game," Bond said. "We just have to make sure we play with intensity the whole game. We started off very sluggish, so we have to pick it up from the start to the end."
The Knights could not pull away from Lake Clifton until the fourth quarter, and never led by more than seven points before the decisive run. George gave City its biggest lead of the first half, 26-19 with two minutes remaining in the second quarter. The Lakers appeared to be inspired by their vocal, home crowd and cut the margin to 28-24 at the half.
The Knights had not played a game since late December and they appeared to be out of sync in parts of the game, but managed to maintain control in the second half.
"I thought it was a team effort in the last three or four minutes," Wade said. "We made a lot of errors. We had a long layoff and did not have a gym to practice. I'm not making excuses, but it contributed to the way we played."
No. 1 City 65, No 13 Lake Clifton 55
L – Brown 14, Kess 10, Parks 10, Green 10, Straham 5, Wright 4, Winder 1, Howard 1.
Totals: 19 14-22 55
C— Bond 21, George 15, Stokes 12, Grant 8, Davis 7, Williams 2.
Totals: 23 16-22 65
Half: C: 28-24