The Old Coach
Article Basketball Statewide

Kimball recovers for big win for 5A State Title

SAN ANTONIO — Dallas’ Kimball HS took some time to find their groove, but it made little difference as the Knights won handedly over Killeen Ellison 69-48 in the 5A state championship game. The Kimball Knights on Saturday won their seventh title in program history.

The win at the Alamodome marks the most state championships for men’s basketball from a Dallas ISD school.

Since COVID-19 broke in early spring 2020, the Dallas school made the state tourney in 2021 but could not advance further. Last year the Knights made the championship game, falling to now 6A Beaumont United.

The Timberwolves beat Kimball in both 2021 and 2022, the latter of which came in the 5A state title game.

T’Johnn Brown, Kimball, pictured above running the point for the Knights. His 14 points were a big factor in Kimball’s 69-48 win in the 5A state championship game. Photo — Arath Brito

Kimball came out on something of a tear, jumping ahead 7-0 against Ellison with 5:12 left in the opening quarter.

Even with such a big lead, the Eagles trusted the process, and after a timeout called by Ellison head coach Alberto Jones, the Eagles then took back momentum to the tune of a 10-1 run heading into the second leading Kimball 10-8.

In fact, their run continued into the second. Kimball made the first shot in the quarter, tying the 5A title game at 10, but Ellison scored the next six points to lead 16-10 with six minutes left in the first half.

The Knights regained momentum from there, going on a huge 22-11 run paving the way for a momentum flipping 32-21 lead as both teams headed to the locker room for halftime.

A big reason for Kimball’s turn of fortunes came from the senior-laden team, as seven players scored. DaCannon Wickware of Kimball came up big on defense, snatching seven rebounds in the quarter.

“Those reserves that came in the game, those guys came prepared. All year they got a chance to play in a lot of games. During the season, they made a lot of mistakes, and you know, you live with that,” Coach Nicke Smith said post-game following his team’s win. “They came in, they were all focused on feel, they were ready, and they came in and got the job done.”

It only got worse from there for the Eagles, as Kimball outpaced Ellison in the second half 37-27 for a huge 69-48 in the 5A state championship game.

Tyler Hankamer was named the 5A state title game MVP, with 17 points/4 reb/2 assts.

Kimball wraps up their season with a stellar 33-2 record, reeling off 28 straight wins en route to their first state championship since 2014. They also went a perfect 16-0 through district play.

The Dallas-based dynasty has seen the Knights win state this year, making the final four in ’22 and finishing runner-up in 2021.

“It means everything,” Coach Smith said in the post-game presser about his program’s seventh state title, marking the most for a Dallas ISD school. “Since we won our last championship [in 2014], it’s been about chasing seven. But I had to to get that out of my mind, and just go year to year… try again, try again, get back and try again…”

The Kimball coach said when spectators, players and others walk into the main gym for the program, onlookers don’t see district championship, state runner-up banners, or anything like that. The only banners that are hung in the Dallas ISD school’s gym are state title wins.

“That’s the standard,” Coach Smith said. “That’s it, is state championships. [We] win 30 games, but don’t win a state championship, we’re right back in the gym come April. That’s where it starts” for teams looking to reach the mountaintop.

And for the first time in nine years, the Knights are state champions for a Dallas ISD record seventh time.

To misquote Paul McCartney during his time with the Beatles, the Knights have gotten back to where they once belonged.

On the other end, Ellison finish with an equally impressive 37-4 season record, falling in a game for the first time since mid-December.

This season the Eagles returned to the state tournament for only the second time in program history. The last appearance came in 1994, when Ellison made the tourney but advanced no further.

“”We knew certain things we had to do well to have a chance,” Coach Alberto Jones said post-game. “[We] probably turned it over too much. I don’t think I did a good job of managing the game like I should’ve. [We] just got outplayed.”

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