Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Dave Faries

Kimball Boys Hang On In Thriller


Vicki Stull

Kimball head coach Bruce Tjosvold plots late game strategy.

Heartbeats paused, eyes widened and minds raced as Quentin Baxter’s desperation shot sailed toward the net.

Kimball held a scant two-point advantage thanks to Caleb Reuter’s free throw with four seconds left. Bridgeport hustled back up court and the final seconds slipped away. With two ticks remaining, Baxter left fly from near the half court line.

“After,” Jake Reader replied when asked if he could breathe as the ball arched toward its target. “I was just hoping he wouldn’t make it.”

The potential Bridgeport game winner spun around the rim for a perilous fraction of a second and then—miraculously for the Longhorns—kicked back out.

Kimball survived the scare with a 41-39 win at The Arena.

“That’s as close as you can get,” Reuter observed, expressing the relief of the moment.

The last second finish had been pending ever since the Bulldogs’ Jason Amateis drained a three-pointer to knot things up at 33-33 to start off the fourth quarter. Zach Rockhold-O’Brien answered from beyond the arc, restoring Kimball’s lead.

“I felt him sagging, so I put it up,” he said. “I knew it was in.”

But his trey represented the last points the Longhorns would score from the floor. Over the next two minutes, neither side could establish a rhythm that would allow them to pull away.

Reader and Mike Daum picked Bridgeport’s pocket twice and the visitors were caught traveling on two more possession. The Longhorns, meanwhile, failed to convert on six trips down court.

“We get going and then come down and do one pass, shoot,” said Kimball head coach Bruce Tjosvold. “We need to get better looks.”

With 5:10 left on the clock, Bridgeport’s Jaime Gonzalez fought into the circle and hit a jumper, tightening things to within one, 36-35.

The visitors began to foul. Down the stretch Reader hit three critical free throws and Daum another, keeping the Bulldogs at bay—but only just.

Wyatt Pankowski scored on a put back for Bridgeport with less than a minute remaining. Once again it was a one point game, 40-39 in favor of the home side.

But Bridgeport standout Gonzalez and their big freshman, John Pappas fouled out. Tjosvold, on the other hand, had two fouls to give and Austin Pile used them both, the second with just six seconds on the clock.

Daum defended the inbound pass and forced a Bulldogs turnover. The visitors then fouled Reuter immediately. The senior forward hit the all-important first shot.

“It’s the toughest stage of the game,” Reuter said. “On that first one I got a lucky roll.”

He tried to compensate on the follow up, but it banged off the hinge, setting up Baxter’s dramatic almost.

“Almost doesn’t mean it went in,” Tjosvold said with evident relief.

A year ago, the Longhorns had lost a 51-50 thriller at Bridgeport under similar circumstances. Only then, it was Daum’s attempt at a buzzer beater that rolled out.

“It’s karma,” Rockhold-O’Brien said.

Despite the last second theatrics, Kimball had opened as if they intended to dominate proceedings. Daum and Reuter established a 6-0 lead from the opening tip. As the first period wound down, Rockhold-O’Brien and Jordon Berger added to the tally.

It was 13-3 in the Longhorns favor after one and 24-18 at the break, thanks to a Bridgeport final shot by Leighton Freeze.

The Longhorns reasserted their authority over the game as the third quarter got underway. Daum drained a three after a Reader steal and coast to coast lay up.

Vicki Stull

Caleb Reuter hauls down a rebound.

“I was going to try to dunk it, but I backed out,” Reader explained.

The junior scored twice more in the period. But Bridgeport put together an 8-0 run and entered the final eight minutes on 7-0 spree to even things at 33-33.

“Our defense started to slip and I took a couple of shots I shouldn’t have,” Daum said. “They hit momentum swings at the right time.”

Kimball may meet the Bulldogs again at this weekend’s WTC tournament. Saturday’s heart stopper and a previous win at Bridgeport gives Tjosvold’s squad reason to respect their rivals.

“They’re a solid defensive team,” Reuter pointed out.


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