COLLEGE PARK — All season, the undefeated City boys basketball team had been careful not to look past the next game, safely keeping the ultimate goal of winning the Class 3A state championship at arm's length.
In Thursday's state semifinal against Urbana — with the next game finally the big one — the No. 1 Knights were clearly excited at the prospect of no longer having to wait.
Setting a fast early pace, City took charge with a dominating first half and then withstood a third-quarter push from the Hawks to win going away, 56-36, at the University of Maryland's Comcast Center.
Senior Omari George keyed the fast start and also was biggest to respond to the Hawks' second-half charge. He finished with a game-high 23 points, making 9 of 14 from the floor, and added 12 rebounds and three steals in the win.
City improved to 26-0 and will face Westlake in Saturday's championship game, set for 3 p.m. at Comcast.
The Knights, which won back-to-back state titles in 2009 and 2010, will look to become the first area team to complete a perfect season since Lake Clifton went 28-0 in capturing the 3A championship in the 2008-09 season.
"It's definitely a great feeling and we're all very excited," George said. "Now, we just want to remain humble, stay focused and come prepared to hopefully get a win on Saturday."
George scored on the first possession, and then junior guard Blair Davis got a quick steal and layup to put the Knights up 4-0 in the opening 27 seconds.
They would go on to score the game's first nine points and led 26-12 at the half by limiting the Hawks (23-3) to 25 percent shooting from the field. Urbana, from Frederick County, outscored City, 17-8, in the third quarter to cut the lead to 34-29. But George hit the first two baskets in the fourth quarter and the Knights were on their way to a comfortable win.
Senior guard Kamau Stokes, who won a state title at Dunbar last season, finished with 10 points. Blair Davis, John Grant and Aaron Williams each scored six points.
On Saturday, Stokes expects to complete the Knights' mission.
"It's no different than any other game we've played this season," he said. "Our guys aren't worried about the size of the arena, the fans or any of that stuff. We've played in some tough situations this whole year, so this isn't anything new to us. We've prepared for it all year, and we're ready for it."
Class 3A state semifinals
(at Comcast Center)
No. 1 City 56, Urbana 36
C – George 23, Davis 6, Jo. Grant 6, Stokes 10, Williams 6, Ju. Grant 3, Bond 2. Totals: 22 13-23 56
U – Tiffany 2, Eversull 12 , Singer 8, Thompson 7, Wrightson 2, Coffey 2, Umphreys 3. Totals: 17 5-9 36.
Half: C, 26-12Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun