Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: Bus ride delays but can't deny Kimball a return to state-title game
Knights jump out to fast start, then rely on defense to hold on
AUSTIN — Because of snarled traffic, the Kimball boys basketball team was running behind schedule when it reached the Frank Erwin Center on Thursday. But thanks to a big early run and Kimball’s typically tight defense, the defending Class 4A champions have arrived, just as scheduled, in another title game.
Keith Frazier scored 22 points as Kimball beat San Antonio Alamo Heights, 47-43, to set up a championship showdown with Houston Yates, the champion in 2009 and ’10.
“We’re one game away,” Frazier said, “and we’ll be ready.”
Kimball (33-5) wasn’t fully ready for its semifinal, coach Royce Johnson said, after his team’s bus got stuck in traffic outside the arena.
“It took us maybe an hour to go 100 yards,” the coach said.
And so Kimball arrived at the arena only 40 minutes before tip-off. After an abbreviated warmup, the Knights took the court against a team that had won 27 straight games. But it didn’t take long for Kimball to break the game open.
The Knights went on an 18-4 run that bridged the end of the first quarter and start of the second. Shannon Lilly and Frazier each hit a pair of 3-pointers during the run, and the Knights began cashing in with transition baskets. After D’Angelo Allen and Sheldon Yearwood scored on fast-break layups, Kimball led 24-10 with 5:05 left in the half.
But Alamo Heights (34-3) scored the final six points of the second quarter, and helped by Kimball making only two of its first eight free throw attempts, only trailed 28-20 at the break. Alamo Heights cut the lead to four twice in the second half and got as close as 46-43 after a 3-pointer by Dylan Lieck with 22 seconds left.
But Frazier hit the first of two free throws with 17 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game. The junior scored 13 of his points in the second half to help the Knights stay out of reach of Alamo Heights, which got 14 points and 12 rebounds from 6-9 center Ben Lammers.
“I didn’t really try to do too much,” Frazier said. “My main focus was to play hard on defense and let the offense come to me.”
Defense was the key for Kimball, which made only 33 percent of its field goal attempts (17-of-51) and fewer than half of its free throws (6-of-14).
The Knights forced 12 turnovers in the first half as they took control, shutting down Alamo Heights’ top scoring threat — guard Jeffrey Rodewald. The 6-5 senior, who averaged 21 points per game this season, was 2-of-15 from the field and missed all six of his 3-point attempts.
“Kimball closes out so quickly,” Alamo Heights coach Andrew Brewer said, “that I think we had to rush some releases.”
Kimball no longer has to rush. The Knights get a day off before playing Yates, which it lost to in the 2009 semifinals.
“We’ll be ready on Saturday,” Johnson said. “I think it’s going to be good for the fans.”