During the halftime break, with his team trailing by six points to visiting City yesterday, Digital Harbor senior guard George Jackson made a point to step up with strong, encouraging words to his teammates.
A little later, with nine seconds left and the score tied, Jackson was stepping up again, this time at the free-throw line.
Jackson made both tries - the second basket proving to be the eventual difference - as the No.6 Rams came away with a 49-47 win over the No. 5 Knights.
With the win, the Rams closed the regular season with an 18-4 record and earned the right to take on No. 1 Lake Clifton for the city championship 7 p.m. Tuesday at Morgan State.
"At halftime, I just told everyone this was our last home game and I'm a senior, so we got to leave it all on the floor, and I told them we're not leaving here without a win," said Jackson, who scored 18 points to lead Digital Harbor.
After Jackson gave the Rams a 48-46 lead with nine seconds left, City (16-6) had two chances at the line to tie. Guard Tanodrio Bogues was fouled with seven seconds left, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one. The Knights kept the rebound alive, and Bogues ended up with the ball before being fouled with four seconds to play. He made his first try to bring the Knights within 48-47, but his second free throw rolled around the rim and out. Digital Harbor's Gary Brannon hit one free throw at the other end to seal the Rams' win.
The Knights' size dominated the first half, with forward Adam Johnson scoring 17 of his 18 points to give the visitors a 23-17 lead at the break. The Rams kept close and eventually won behind their guards with Justin Jackson providing 16 points to help his brother. The two combined to score 14 of the Rams' 17 points in the pivotal fourth quarter.
Digital Harbor coach Johnnie Grimes also praised the effort of senior Kevin Davis, who came up with key rebounds and strong defense in the second half.
NO. 1 LAKE CLIFTON 70, NO. 11 PATTERSON 47: : The visiting Lakers were paced by double doubles from Cleveland Melvin (22 points, 14 rebounds) and William Barton (17 points, 12 rebounds) in improving to 22-0.
NO. 4 WALBROOK 49, MERVO 43: : The Warriors improved to 19-3, holding the host Mustangs to 13 second-half points, including only four in the final quarter.
The Warriors were led by Donte Stuckey, who had 19 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
NO. 13 ABERDEEN 48, FALLSTON 45: : Devon Saddler scored the final three points of the game (all free throws) in the last 30 seconds to help the visiting Eagles (16-4) pull away from the Cougars.
The Eagles' Horace Jackson led all scorers with 13 points.
NO. 4 CITY 55, NO. 7 DIGITAL HARBOR 52:: Victoria Mitchell had 12 points and 15 rebounds for the visiting Knights (19-3).
Asia Logan scored 22 points and was 10-for-10 from the free-throw line in the second half for the Rams.
NO. 5 ARUNDEL 77, SOUTH RIVER 56: : The visiting Wildcats (18-3) defeated the host Seahawks, benefiting from a game-high 23 points by Ebonee' Jones.
Girls ice hockey
HOLTON-ARMS 5, BRYN MAWR 3: : For the sixth straight year, Holton-Arms captured the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League title over Bryn Mawr.
Holton-Arms was sparked by Christine Kim, who scored two goals in the game at Laurel Ice Rink. Samantha Shane, Jessie Thompson and Stephanie Dell had one goal each.
Nieley Weeks (two goals) and Jay Green (one goal) provided the scoring for Bryn Mawr, which entered the third period with a 3-2 advantage.
Baltimore Sun reporters contributed to this article.