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KNIGHTDALE — With graduation, transfers and injuries dribbling an offseason wrecking ball through the Knightdale High boys basketball program, the 2019-2020 debut seemed shot full of doubt. Then the Knights looked exactly like the same old Knights during an 81-66 opening wallop of Franklinton at home Nov. 18.
Most battle-tested veteran Rodney Ellis produced right on cue with 17 points, eight rebounds and five steals. Newcomer freshman Quaseen Oden also arrived on the scene by showcasing nine points and seven assists.
Knightdale’s roster proved to possess no strangers to the long-rangers, either, as six different marksmen nailed at least one 3-pointer. Omar Carabello knocked down a pair of treys for 16 points and four assists.
Nick Boone (four points), David Ingraham (three points), Atavioun Dawes (three points), Ellis and Oden accounted for the other five blasts from beyond.
The visiting Red Rams horned in on the premiere by repeatedly earning trips to the foul line. They nailed 19-of-25 overall to stay even (at 35-35) as late as intermission. Twenty turnovers turned the second-half tide.
That and a coast-to-coast transition beginning with an Ellis steal, an Ayinde Taylor upcourt relay and finishing via a Carabello alley-oop to Chris Mitchell. That lone sequence alerted the house to the presence of Mitchell’s seven points down the stretch complementing 10 rebounds and five assists.
Despite persistent foul trouble for starting center Boone, Ayinde Taylor (13 points, seven rebounds) picked up any slack aggressively attacking the paint. Knightdale established a 10-point bulge going into the fourth period. The Red Rams whittled as close as five twice, but the Knights responded with the calm precision of a cohesive and experience unit.
On paper, the crew would seem anything but after losing its top-two scorers from a NAC 6 tournament champion and 20-plus game winner last winter.
Knightdale will play at Sanderson on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Franklinton will take on East Wake at home the same day at 7:45 p.m.