Little has separated the North boys basketball team from the elite of the City League in recent seasons.
Seemingly with an ulterior barrier stunting their potential, the Redskins have flirted with the best, but never beaten them.
The ceiling returned on Tuesday night, as No. 3 East rallied from a six-point deficit late to escape with a 57-56 victory at North.
"We feel like we took a big step rebounding, offensively and defensively," North coach Gary Squires said. "Last year that was a struggle for us. I think we've made some big strides tonight."
For yet another time, North will have to settle with improvement without a victory.
East's Ja'ln Williams swished a three-pointer in the corner and Jalen Carter made a three-point play to tie the score at 53.
After trading baskets, East put the ball in the hands of Williams. The junior penetrated and created an easy layup for Carter for a 57-55 lead with 1:12 remaining.
"I know Ja'ln is a real unselfish player," Carter said. "I (saw) him cutting, so I just called for the ball and he delivered."
North couldn't find a preferable shot and ran clock until Brison White drove and created another slash to the rim for his brother, Briston.
White was fouled, but missed the first free throw before making the second.
East's Jalen Love was fouled and missed the front end of his one-and-one. A tie-up gave North the ball with six seconds left.
Chekiel Wright drove the length of the court, picked up his dribble and split two defenders on an off-balance 15-footer that bounced too hard off the rim.
"Our halfcourt defense is what preserved it," East coach Ron Allen said. "Our defense is second to none. We know we can guard people in the halfcourt."
That pride didn't seem to kick in until North grabbed a 51-44 lead, the largest of the game, with five minutes remaining. Allen made it an emphasis during the ensuing timeout.
"We knew this is what we practiced for," Love said. "We said we were going to fight back in the huddle and that's what we did to get the win."
North was held without a field goal for the rest of the game.
Trying to capitalize on its athleticism, North conceded the height advantage to the Blue Aces.
For the majority of the game, the clashes of styles evened out. North out-rebounded East 38-34, but gave up 20 offensive rebounds.
The final two were crucial, as 6-foot-3 Teance Walton and 6-4 Nathan Jackson kept a missed East shot alive. Jackson was fouled and made both free throws for a 55-53 lead.
"As the game wore down, I was afraid of one time you don't do the little things," Squires said, "it was going to catch up with you and that's what happened."
Briston White became the Redskins' surest bet to score, finishing with a team-high 22 points. He also had 14 rebounds.
Williams was the biggest reason the Redskins are still on the brink.
He hit three three-pointers in the second quarter to give East a 28-27 halftime lead after trailing by nine after the first quarter. Williams finished with four three-pointers.
"Just confidence," Williams said. "I think anybody can be a good shooter when they practice and have confidence in their shot."
East (4-1, 4-1) 9 19 13 16 — 57 North (2-3, 2-3) 19 8 13 16 — 56
EAST: Williams 8 2-2 22, Love 3 0-1 6, Rogers 0 1-2 1, Carter 6 1-1 13, Walton 1 2-4 4, Jackson 1 3-4 5, Duque 1 0-0 3, Johnson-Reed 0 0-0 0, Reed 0 0-0 0, Griffin 1 0-0 3. Totals 21 (6) 9-14 57.
NORTH: Wright 4 4-4 12, Frankamp 4 0-0 9, Tolliver 0 0-0 0, Brt. White 10 2-5 22, Bri. White 4 0-0 8, Robertson 1 3-3 5. Totals 23 (1) 9-12 56.