"Apart from English being one of the best teams in the state, this is the English-Classical rivalry," Rams coach Jasper Grassa said. "We always want to get that win."
Classical's Jaylen Johnson led all scorers with 26 points. Edwin Solis added 13, Malik Anderson tallied 10 and Dyrrell Rucker scored nine.
"We need games like that, especially against a good team," Grassa said of the Rams sharing the ball. "That way the players know 'I can't do it by myself.' They know they have teammates that can score in double-digits."
Eric Ramsay provided a spark off the bench, finishing with seven points.
"Eric was huge tonight," Grassa said. "When we took Eric at the beginning of the year, it didn't look like he was going to get any playing time at all. Now, in one of the biggest games of our season, he stepped up with a ton of composure."
For English, Javonte Edwards scored 17 points, while Ademide Badmus added 11 and Jordan Todd finished with 10.
Neither team could get its offense going in the first quarter. English ran out to a 4-0 edge but Classical grabbed its first lead of the night thanks to a basket and a 3-pointer from Johnson. Johnson scored seven of Classical’s 10 points in the opening quarter. His floater at the buzzer gave the Rams a 10-7 lead at the end of the first.
"I can't take anything away from Classical," Bulldogs coach Antonio Anderson said. "They made shots when they had to and we didn't. We couldn't hit our shots."
Johnson carried his rhythm into the second quarter. The junior guard knocked home three 3-pointers in the period, the third of which gave the Rams a 24-18 lead with 2:00 to play. Ramsay swished a pair of baskets off the bench for the Rams but English had the last word of the half. Todd beat the buzzer with a lay-in and the Bulldogs trailed 27-22 at recess.
The Bulldogs drew fouls but struggled to hit their free throws. English missed 11 freebies in the first half.
"We couldn't make anything," Anderson said. "We didn't do our job, they did. My guys drew fouls but they have to hit those free throws when they get to the line. We have to make those."
Classical caught fire from beyond the arc in the third quarter. The Rams hit nine 3-pointers in the period, accounting for all 27 of their points. Solis, quiet in the first half, netted four of them. Anderson made three, while Johnson and Ramsay each swished one. The red-hot shooting led Classical to a 54-40 advantage after three.
"We were finally moving the ball and getting good shots for each other instead of taking one-on-one three's," Grassa said. "We were moving the ball a lot more.
"We stayed a little more focused," Grassa added. "We tried to pack it in a little too much in the first half. We kind of got lucky that they weren't being as aggressive in the second half. I thought we played a lot better in the second half."
English didn't go down without a fight in the final quarter. Edwards carried the Bulldogs through the closing stretch, scoring nine points in the fourth. He notched a three-point play with 49.1 seconds left to whittle Classical's lead down to single-digits at 67-58. That was as close as English would get as the Rams held off the late rally for the 68-58 win.
Classical (12-5) hosts Everett Thursday (7).
English (14-3) aims to end its two-game slide with a win at Medford Thursday (7).
"We're still in good shape," Anderson said. "We'll go to Medford Thursday and we're looking to get a win."