Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Kimball relentless and fearless, now peerless after winning 4A title
AUSTIN – In the opening minutes, when the tone was set in Saturday's Class 4A championship game, Kimball was relentless. In the final minutes, when a furious La Marque rally turned the game into a nailbiter, the Knights were fearless.
And as the final seconds ticked off Saturday at the Frank Erwin Center, Kimball was peerless. The Knights stormed the court to celebrate a 78-64 victory and the school's fourth state title.
“We told each other, we’re not leaving without that ring,” senior guard Oscar Lewis said. “It’s a dream come true.”
Lewis and fellow guards Shannon Lilly and Austin Franklin were a big reason the dream became a reality in front of 12,836 fans. Lilly, who was named the game’s MVP, nailed 5 of 6 3-pointers and scored 23 points. Franklin had 15 points and made 2 of 3 from beyond the arc, and Lewis had eight points, four assists and only one turnover against intense defensive pressure.
The guard trio, which coach Royce Johnson said was overlooked all season, was fantastic as Kimball (38-3) won its first title since 1997.
“Every time I talk to people, they talk about the Big Three,” Johnson said. “And I used to ask them, what Big Three are you talking about?”
Most would be talking about Kimball’s frontcourt that features three Division I recruits: Jordan Williams (signed with North Texas), Jalen Jones (SMU) and Jarion Henry (undecided). Kimball wouldn’t have won Saturday without the frontcourt stars, but the Knights’ guards were the biggest three of all Saturday.
That’s partly because of all the threes, as in 3-pointers, that Lilly and Franklin sank. Lilly made his fifth straight to give Kimball a 48-33 lead early in the third quarter, and when Lilly touched the ball after that, the La Marque defense responded like sirens were blaring.
“They started running hard at me,” the junior said. “I heard them yelling “shooter!”
Soon after, the La Marque fans were yelling as their team made a big comeback. Kimball, which had led since it jumped to a 13-2 lead in the first four minutes, was suddenly in a dogfight.
Julien Lewis, a Texas signee who led La Marque (33-5) with 26 points, made a pair of free throws to cut Kimball’s lead to 60-57 with 2:25 left.
“We’ve been in situations like that all year where a team has battled back,” Lewis said. “We just needed to stay focused.”
Kimball also needed to make free throws, and that was a reason to be nervous. Kimball had only made 6 of 14 when La Marque began fouling to extend the game.
The Knights, however, showed no fear as they stepped to the line. They knocked down 14 straight in the final two minutes.
That’s how a champion closes out a game.