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

By Dave Faries
Editor 

Longhorns Win Come From Behind Thriller

Klinkhammer, Daum Lead Way In 54-52 Subdistrict Triumph

 

Vicki Stull

Amber Kilgore greets Danika Daum seconds after the buzzer.

Time can slow to a crawl.

It certainly appeared to as Darbi Klinkhammer drove into the lane, forced her shoulder between frantic defenders and arched a shot toward the net with just five seconds on the clock.

The awkward lay up fell through, giving the Longhorns a 54-52 edge. Mitchell’s desperation response sailed off target, propelling Klinkhammer and her mates to Thursday night’s subdistrict final against powerful Chadron.

In the wake of yet another thrilling finish against the Tigers, Kimball’s senior point guard shrugged off the last second tension, as well as the aching movement of the clock.

“We ran the play,” she explained.

The play capped an astounding come from behind victory in the first round of subdistrict play, reversing consecutive losses and a woeful first half performance.

Mitchell rushed out to a 9-0 lead and still held a significant 27-17 advantage at the half.

But Danika Daum sank a short jumper coming out of the break and followed up with a baseline leaner, after Jessica Hanks hit two from the line.

But Katelyn Lower and McKenna Zulkoski continued to hold the Longhorns at arms length, maintaining a double digit lead deep into the third quarter.

With 2:17 remaining in the period, Daum struck again, draining a turn around hook in the lane. She ended up with 22 points on the night, along with 13 rebounds.

“Danika lit a fire underneath us,” head coach Ken Smith observed. “We fed off that.”

The Tigers still clung to a 36-29 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but their grip was beginning to loosen. Over the next few minutes, Daum connected for 8 points, including two clean three-pointers.

“Everyone was screaming ‘shoot it,’ so I figured I should,” the freshman reported. “I was on at the end of the game.”

Daum indeed tallied 12 points in the final frame. But there was more to the picture: sticky defense, a spotless turnover ratio and some calm, collected moments during the heat of an eight minute stretch in which both teams combined for 41 points.

As the game ticked under the 6:00 mark, Klinkhammer grabbed a rebound and fired long to Shelby Vogel. The usually dangerous forward had been shut out until this moment, when she completed the breakaway with a lay up, bringing the score to 39-38 in favor of Mitchell.

“We needed the points,” Vogel said. “I was just happy I made it.”

The Tigers responded, outpacing Kimball 7-3 over the next frenzied minute, restoring their advantage to a more manageable 46-41.

With 4:20 left, Hanks powered through three defenders, hitting the short lob and drawing a foul. She completed a three-point play on the bonus—and clawed the Longhorns to within a jump shot of a tie.

“I just went up strong,” she said. “It felt good to be on the post again.”

Smith shifted the sophomore low to anchor the offense, sending Daum out to roam the perimeter and make penetrating runs. The ploy seemed to work.

The Longhorns took an aggressive stance after the halftime break, forcing drives, posting up and inviting Mitchell’s top players to respond. Both Lower and the ever-dangerous Havannah Newens found themselves in foul trouble as time wound down.

“Their best two players spend a lot of time on the bench,” Hanks pointed out. “That was big.”

Still, the Tigers had restored a 50-44 advantage with just 3:41 remaining.

But, as Klinkhammer explained, “in crunch time you have to step up.”

Daum hammered home 4 quick points. Vogel followed with a forceful put back and suddenly the game was knotted at 50-50. Just 96 seconds glowed from the scoreboard clock.

Vicki Stull

Jessica Hanks

Newens missed, Klinkhammer rebounded and was fouled. She sank both, but Chalsey Grentz answered with a deft jumper after scooping up a loose ball with just 21 seconds left.

Then came the play, from a Kimball inbound after a timeout.

“If they double down on me, I pass to Darbi,” Daum said of the plan coach Smith sketched out in the huddle.

Smith expected the Tigers to collapse on Daum, the game’s hot shooter and decided to rely on Klinkhammer’s experience in tight games.

“Let Darbi make the choice,” he said. “I trusted her—she’s a lot of the reason for our success over the past few years.”

The shot fell, sending the Longhorns into a rematch of last year’s subdistrict final.

 

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