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Knightdale places third in holiday tourney

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The Knightdale High boys basketball team has now taken gold, silver and bronze medals from its three straight South Granville Holiday Invitational visits.

The 2019 invasion yielded third place after the Knights conquered Cape Fear Christian Academy, 60-56, in the Columbia bracket consolation contest.

Cape Fear battled the Knights after losing to Rolesville 49-34 in their previous tournament match.

Knightdale junior guard Rodney Ellis (21 points, eight assists, six rebounds, five steals) reached all-tournament status upon unleashing another riveting barrage. He would captain the ship to an early lead, keep the helm while weathering several Eagle storms, then calmly steer the crew to a victory docking via late clutch free throws.

What the Knights (8-5) also accomplished during the three game regular season hiatus was ending a three-game losing spell. They prevailed in the first round, then surrendered a fourth-quarter advantage to eventual champion South Granville amid the semifinals.

After a runner-up slot in 2017 and a title triumph in 2018, Knightdale exiting with another piece of event hardware proved valuable as a morale boost. Cape Fear Christian (10-5) posed an obstacle to that intention.

Knightdale’s 8-0 surge in the first quarter established some distance between them, but the Eagles flapped back with their own 10-0 spurt extending into the second frame. There, the Knights summoned success on four consecutively sunk three-pointers. Ellis, Omar Caraballo (16 points, three rebounds) and freshman Quasim Oden (six points, three assists) all jacked the edge to 35-28 at the break.

The pattern repeated itself in the third quarter as Knightdale both built a double-digit margin and lost it all. Cape Fear Christian forged a 46-46 tie after three periods, then twice posted one-bucket leads in the finale.

Knightdale answered the first deficit with a Nick Boone (six points, five rebounds) knock in the paint. Then it replied to the second setback when Ellis located Caraballo for the wing triple. It was the key shot to take a lead never to be relinquished again.

Ellis stretched it to four using a pair of free throws with 90 seconds left. Then Ellis fed Ayinde Taylor II (seven points) in the box to match two Eagle free throws.

Cape Fear Christian cut it to two again then regained possession. Boone forced a travel, setting the stage for two Ellis charity-stripe strokes with 45 ticks left. Following an Eagle missed trey, Caraballo toed the line for two makes and the safe cushion.

The Knights meet East Wake for a neighborhood sequel showdown Tuesday Jan. 7 at 7:30 p.m. That will precede the NAC 6 slate.