GARLAND — It took blood, sweat and tears for Kimball to earn its third straight trip to the state tournament.
Kimball’s players embraced as they watched their teammates and coaches cut down the net at the Curtis Culwell Center with blood-stained jerseys representing the battle scars of a physical contest with No. 5 Lancaster (25-8) that the state’s top 5A team won 63-54.
From the game’s early moments, it became clear that it would be a battle. Kimball point guard T’Johnn Brown secured steals left and right, forcing Lancaster turnovers as Kimball center DaCannon Wickware and Lancaster forward Dillon Battie battled in the post.
“Lancaster has a very good team,” Kimball coach Nick Smith said. “I knew they were going to come out physical against us. I asked these guys to match it.”
A low-scoring first quarter left the two teams tied at 10 heading into the second. For the second straight game, Kimball (31-2) put together a massive run in the second quarter, ending the half on a 17-3 run and entering halftime with a 12-point lead.
But unlike in Kimball’s regional semifinal game against Red Oak Friday, Lancaster was able to respond. Lancaster went on a 21-5 run in the third quarter to cut the Kimball lead to two heading into the final eight minutes. But Kimball was able to outscore Lancaster late and pull away with a nine-point margin of victory.
“He came out with an adjustment,” Smith said. “They started to catch us. I didn’t have them in the right place the first time. They caught up, and when I called a timeout, got them to calm down, we just started picking them apart.”
Kimball guard Tylar Hankamer led all scorers with 20 points. Brown and Barack Holland each added a dozen while RJ Osborne had 11. Battie, Joseph Mayberry and Kade Douglas led Lancaster with 14, 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Kimball punched its ticket to San Antonio, where it will try to bring home the seventh state title in program history.
But in the meantime, the focus is on recovering from Saturday’s game in the little time it has.
“We have to stay as a team and recover,” Wickware said. “We are all horrified.”