The Mervo and City boys basketball teams enter the 2019-20 season with similar goals, both looking to establish themselves as strong contenders in Baltimore City league play.
In an evenly played season opener — both teams having their positive stretches — it was City that had the first say, playing a little bigger in the biggest moments at Mervo.
The No. 15 Knights got a game-high 24 points from junior guard Ahmad Harrison to help get into overtime and then they took immediate charge at both ends in the extra time for a 71-66 win over the No. 11 Mustangs on Thursday.
Harrison, a Gerstell transfer, scored 14 in the fourth quarter. From there, he got plenty of help early in overtime with Clarence Obiajulu converting a three-point play; Kevin Kulu following a miss with a monstrous dunk and Chandler Cuthrell (15 points) finishing a reverse layup. The Knights closed by making 5 of 6 free throws.
Season openers often come with unsettled play — as was the case for the Knights. But coach Omarr Smith liked what he saw in the closing stretch.
"We made some big plays — particularly down the stretch. Ugly game, dogfight like I expected,” he said. “We were up and down some today but, collectively, it’s there. It was good to see them come together and make big plays for us in important moments.”
The matchups were there for a close game and that’s what took place. Mervo got 23 points from Will Thomas and 16 from Demonee Carter to counter the work of Harrison and Cuthrell.
The Knights took the game’s biggest lead during regulation midway through the second quarter when Kai Brooks hit two free throws for a 27-21 advantage. But Mervo responded behind Thomas and his driving layup and follow dunk on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter gave the home team the lead back at 38-36 with 3:07 to play.
Harrison dominated early in the fourth quarter and it appeared the Knights would pull away — he scored seven straight points as the visitors scored on their first four possessions while getting stops at the other end to lead, 50-45, with 5:59 left.
Varsity Highlights Newsletter
Get the latest high school sports stories, photos and video from around the region.
Later, his 3-pointer with 1:34 to play provided a 59-55 lead before Mervo got the game into overtime with a baseline jam from Taylor Miller followed by a driving basket through the lane by Wilson to tie at 59 with 33 seconds left.