The City boys basketball team will return to the University of Maryland's Comcast Center this week in a bid to successfully defend its Class 2A state title, starting with a semifinal game Friday.
The hardest part of the task might have already been accomplished.
The Class 2A North was easily the most difficult region in the state, and City survived as much and won, getting past Baltimore City champion Edmondson, 59-58, on Saturday at City.
The No. 5 Knights (21-2) overcame an early 11-1 deficit and then a scare in the final seconds when the No. 3 Red Storm (19-3) saw a final shot and two tip tries all stay out of the basket.
City senior center Jordan Latham dominated inside, scoring a game-high 17 points that featured four rim-rattling dunks, and three others reached double figures.
"We showed a lot of heart, a lot of heart," Latham said. "Edmondson is a really good team and they were very aggressive, but we came out the better team today. Getting back to Comcast is a beautiful thing. I just really want to win it in my senior year. A lot of players don't get the chance to win two championships, so we're really excited."
The Red Storm came out fast, hitting their first four shots, including three straight 3-pointers, to take an 11-1 lead before the Knights regrouped. City closed out the final 5:21 of the first quarter on a 10-0 run to tie the score at 11.
The game stayed tight until the Knights scored seven straight points early in the fourth quarter, with Latham finishing a dunk and then hitting two free throws for a 48-41 lead with 4:40 to play.
But Edmondson, despite senior leader Jerry Lovelocke fouling out on Latham's free throws, was far from done.
Ranair Pratcher (14 points) scored six straight points and Rodney Pratcher (13 points) hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 59-57 with 2:05 left.
The Knights followed a stretch in which they hit nine of 10 free throws by missing four straight in the final 1:09, giving the Red Storm an opening.
Edmondson trailed 59-58 with the ball in the final seconds, but Ranair Pratcher's shot from the right baseline was deflected, one tip try rimmed out and the second by Stanton Kidd (14 points) was deflected by City guard Nick Faust at the buzzer.
Both teams had knocked off state champions in the regional semifinals. The Knights handled defending 3A champion Lake Clifton, 60-47, and the Red Storm, which won the program's first Baltimore City championship, edged last year's 1A champion, Digital Harbor, 66-62.
E - Kidd 14, Ro. Pratcher 13, Ra. Pratcher 14, Lovelocke 6, Thomas 5, Pyatt 6. Totals: 20 8-15 58.
C - Faust 12, Latham 17, Cheatum 10, Tapper 5, Anderson 5, Rasheed 10. Totals: 17 22-33 59.
Half: C, 29-25.