KNIGHTDALE — Just as it has numerous times in recent years, the outcome of the basketball game between the Knightdale and East Wake boys was decided in the final seconds.
In the latest installment, Knightdale got production from a senior captain when it needed it the most and held on for a 69-67 win after a last-second heave by East Wake missed its mark.
“Obviously, every game with us and them is always intense and always played hard,” Knightdale coach Battle Watkins said after the game. “We say this every year – we should charge double for admission because it’s always a good game and a good atmosphere.”
East Wake triple teamed Knightdale’s leading scorer, Ronshad Allen-Shabazz, as the Knights prepared for an inbound pass with the score tied at 67 with 11 seconds left in the game. But the extra coverage created a clear passing lane up the middle of the court, where Knightdale’s Montez Wilson took the feed before being fouled by East Wake’s Romar Bartee.
“We were fortunate, and pretty smart too, to find the open guy, and we were fortunate that it was Montez and he’s our best free throw shooter,” Watkins said. “If it is going to be tied, you want him shooting two free throws.”
Wilson hit both shots with five seconds to play to set up the final score. East Wake went coast-to-coast on one final possession, but the driving layup attempt by Quincey Jackson spun wide off the backboard as the buzzer sounded.
“He’s the guy we want to have the ball if it’s going to be a layup,” East Wake coach Darrin Stinson said of Jackson, who finished with 16 points. “We’ve got to just be able to hit some shots when we need them.”
Knightdale (6-3, 1-0 Greater Neuse River 4A) was poised as it opened up an 18-10 lead in the first quarter and remained up eight points, 33-25, at halftime.
In the first four minutes of the second half, East Wake (1-7, 0-1) more than doubled Knightdale in scoring to pull to within one point, 39-38.
“We tried to open up the floor a little bit tonight, and it was working,” Stinson said.
The Warriors rode the momentum to take a 44-39 lead, but Knightdale finished the third quarter on a 10-2 run to retake the lead, 48-47, by the start of the fourth.
The Knights used back-to-back scores in transition by Daquan Lilly and Wilson extended their lead to nine points with just more than three minutes left in the game.
“I was really having thoughts, to be honest, that we’ve got to figure out a way not to lose leads in the fourth quarter,” Watkins said. “It wasn’t a big lead, and it was having to be regained from being down in the third.”
East Wake validated Watkins’ concerns, scoring twice off turnovers to pull within three, 66-63, with 50 seconds on the clock. After Knightdale’s Marcell Johnson was fouled and hit one of two from the line, Jackson drained a short jumper to make it a 2-point game at the 30-second mark.
Bartee drew a foul on Knightdale’s Josh James with 11 seconds left and hit both free throws to set up the tie Wilson would later break.
Despite suffering its seventh straight loss, Stinson thought his team performed well in adverse conditions on the road.
“We’re still young,” Stinson said. “We’ve just got to keep building on it. We’ve got to be smart and hopefully it will start turning here soon. We’ve just got to keep our heads up.”
Watkins said his team still needs to work on finishing strong.
“It’s young guys playing hard. People are going to make mistakes,” he said. “But for us to be one of the better teams in the area, we’ve got to handle composure a little bit better with a lead.”
Allen-Shabazz and East Wake’s Josh Siler shared the high scoring honors in the game with 22 points each. Wilson added 12 points for the Knights.