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Lake Clifton boys basketball rallies again to beat City, 49-44, inches closer to Baltimore City title game

For the Lake Clifton boys basketball team, the past week has been about so much more than just winning games.

Coach Herman “Tree” Harried describes it as “weathering storms” as the No. 6 Lakers try to navigate the demanding part of their Baltimore City League schedule.

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The biggest challenge took place at undefeated and No. 4 City on Tuesday, and they once again found the answers in critical moments.

Down six points heading into the fourth quarter, the Lakers scrapped for points and clamped down on defense, and forward Kelvin Spruill and guard Zaccheus Blackwell proved to be the catalysts in a 49-44 win.

Lake Clifton, which came back from a 17-1 deficit to win at Mervo on Thursday, improved to 10-4 overall and 5-0 in the city’s A Division, while City fell to 16-1 and 5-1 in the division.

Spruill, the Lakers’ tallest player at 6 feet 7, played like it with three put-backs in the fourth quarter to finish with 14 points. Blackwell (13 points) had a key steal following a missed free throw by the Lakers and hit two free throws with five seconds left to secure the win.

Lake Clifton can wrap up the division and a berth in the Baltimore City championship game (set for Feb. 25 at Morgan State) with a home win against Edmondson on Friday. The Red Storm beat Mervo, 61-59, on Tuesday and have only one division loss.

“You had two well-prepared teams, two teams that fought to the end, and once again we just got through the storm,” Harried said.

“Last Thursday at Mervo was a storm, today was a storm and Friday is going to be a hurricane. There’s just no breathing room. You go in the room and celebrate a little bit, and then go right home tonight and start working on the Edmondson game. This is what we signed up for.”

The Knights enjoyed an 11-0 run in the second quarter, with Ahmad Harrison (game-high 20 points) accounting for seven during the stretch to take a 25-20 lead. City stayed ahead entering the fourth quarter, but that’s when the Lakers seem to be at their best.

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Spruill was active around the basket, with his follow-up dunk giving the Lakers a 45-44 lead with 2:05 to play as the home team was only able to muster one basket and two free throws in the final eight minutes.

With Lake Clifton clinging to a one-point lead and 60 seconds left on the clock, Michael Gray (16 points) made it a two-point game with a make on his first free-throw try. When he missed the second, Blackwell sneaked in to grab the rebound. Spruill hit one more free throw with 31 seconds left, and after another defensive stop, Blackwell hit two free throws in the closing seconds to send the Lakers home with another crucial win.

“It’s always the little things that matter most in the big games,” Blackwell said. “So we’re always prepared, work hard at practice and make sure to be mentally ready. We really wanted this game and gave it all we got. They’re a pretty good team. They came in undefeated and really battled. Our team, we’re really good. We got a lot of talent and we always battle and never give up on each other.”

The Knights will try to bounce back Friday when they travel to Douglass.

“My message going into the fourth quarter was we’re up six and they aren’t going away," City coach Omarr Smith said. "X’s and O’s is only going to mean so much — it’s going to be who wants it more. We’ve had all types of games and we’ve got a little rattled and frustrated and we’ve always managed to rally around each other and come away winners. Today was the first time we weren’t able to.”

LC — Gray 16, Blackwell 13, Morris 4, Spruill 14, Davis 2. Totals: 18 11-16 49

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C — Booker 2, Harrison 20, Carrington 12, Obiajulu 1, Kulu 5, Cuthrell 4. Totals: 15 10-16 43

Half: C, 29-26

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