Two big games on its home court would go a long way toward determining whether the Bishop Grimes boys basketball team could claim the outright OHSL Liberty division regular-season championship.
In the first of these tests on Monday night, the Cobras nearly squandered a 20-point lead against one of the teams chasing them, Skaneaetles, but held on to beat the Lakers 82-74 and complete a regular-season sweep.
What happened here was quite similar to the two teams' first meeting on Dec. 9, a 71-62 Grimes win, in that the Cobras would dominate early, only to have Skaneateles cause some worries before it was done.
With a potent combination of strong perimeter defense, a frantic tempo and a domination of the offensive boards, Grimes started on a 12-4 spurt and nursed that margin throughout the first quarter.
The Cobras would also dominate much of the second period, too, at one point stretching out to a 39-19 lead. By this point, three players - Mike Stone, Tavon Moore (12 points each) and Kucjok Ater (10 points) were already in double figures.
Slowly, relentlessly, Skaneateles pushed back within 43-29 by halftime, then kept eating away at Grimes' lead as the second half wore on, helped in no small part by the whistles. In all, 51 fouls were called in this highly physical contest.
That foul trouble would catch up to Grimes in the fourth quarter as Skaneateles pulled within four, 67-63, on Brandon Barron's basket with 3:21 left.
The issue was still in doubt as the Cobras, clinging to a 70-65 lead, finally got clear when Stone hit a 3-pointer with 1:36 left, and Ater added two free throws seconds later. Skaneateles never got closer than eight points again.
Stone, despite inconsistency at the free-throw line, finished with 25 points and inched closer to the 1,000-point mark for his career. Moore had 23 points, most of them from foul shots, while Ater had 14 points and Mike Sugamosto got 13 points.
On the Lakers' side, Pat Roberts was superb all night, the junior forward pouring in a game-high 27 points, while Kevin Rice gained 19 points and Barron added 13 points.
Now Grimes (14-1) would prepare for Friday night's battle with Marcellus, the team's last regular-season home game before trips to Phoenix and Westhill close out the regular season.