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

By Dave Faries

Kimball To Face Gibbon In First Round Of State Tournament


Vicki Stull

Mike Daum leads Kimball in points per game and rebounds.

For teams traveling to state, the clock resets to zero. Wins and losses are erased and the new season scaled down to one, two or three critical games.

To make matters even more difficult, coaches and players come into Lincoln with little more than a few hours of videotape to guide them. Most teams in the state tournament bracket have never faced each other.

“We don’t even play common opponents,” said Paul Reinertson, head coach at Gibbon, set to tip off against the Longhorns in the opening round at Pershing Center on Thursday night. “It’s definitely hard to prepare, but that’s the neat thing about state.”

The Buffaloes, appearing in Lincoln for the first time in 32 years, reached the tournament on the strength of a 20-5 record and their playoff wins over Kearney Catholic and O’Neill.

“We’ve watched film on them,” Kimball forward Jake Reader explained. “They have a killer 1-3-1. We need to work the ball inside and not let them get fast break points.”

Longhorns head coach Bruce Tjosvold, who guided his squad to a 20-1 mark, expects a tight battle. Kimball often arrays in a flexible 1-3-1, so the team understands its intricacies. While the Longhorns hold a height advantage, Gibbon’s offense runs through point guard Riley Reinertson.

He leads the team in scoring, twice topping the 30 point barrier.

“We match up well,” Tjosvold pointed out. “They have good guards and pass the ball well. Hopefully we’ll be the better rebounding team.”

Mike Daum leads the way with 11.3 boards per game. But Reader and Caleb Reuter, at 6.4 and 5.8 respectively, have been strong around the glass all year. Of course, the height advantage plays well on the offensive side, too.

“Since we have post players, we can work it in and then kick it out,” Jordon Berger observed.

Still, film sessions yield only so much information. Quickness, the pace of a fast break and other intangibles are difficult to pin down on the screen and replicate in practice.

“We will have our hands full,” Reinertson said. “I guess we’ll see who can adjust the quickest.”

Both teams traveled along similar paths to state, catching glimpses of their potential, suffering through injury to key players and overcoming a longtime rival. Tjosvold witnessed it in December, while Daum was sidelined.

“Everybody on this team was confident they could pick up the slack,” he said. “In our practices, in our games, they all stepped up.”

In a sense, however, Kimball’s road to Lincoln began with the graduation of talented guards Jeff Greenwood and Trevan Hinton.

“I knew I was going to have to pick up the slack,” Zach Rockhold-O’Brien acknowledged. “But I knew we were going to be good.”

Rockhold-O’Brien averaged 14.0 points per game in December. But he was content to start the offense without scoring when necessary. Meanwhile Berger and Austin Pile proved solid on both ends of the court.

Reinertson recognized his team’s potential toward the end of the 2011-12 season.

“It started last year,” he said. “From December on we played good basketball, and we had everybody coming back.”

The team picked up momentum this season, when Bret Bendfeldt returned from a football injury that cancelled his 2011-12. Bendfeldt’s health put Gibbon over the top. Although they lost twice to Kearney Catholic in December, they knocked off the Kearney team when it counted.

Kearney Catholic, 22-3 and the number three seed, made it into the state tournament on wild card points--this despite losing three of their final four contests.

Neither Kimball nor Gibbon can claim an experience advantage entering the contest. While it has been a generation since Gibbon took the court in Lincoln, the Longhorns’ Daum, Reader and Reuter did not play when Kimball lost to Milford in the first round of the 2011 event.

“They were both great teams,” Tjosvold said of the 2011 and 2013 editions. “I couldn’t pick between them—wouldn’t want to try.”

Kimball and Gibbon square off in the late game, scheduled to start at 8:45 p.m. on Thursday.

“I like the late game,” Daum said. “It gives us a chance to prepare.”

Kimball will loosen up on the way during a stop at Lexington, enjoy the Nebraska-Minnesota game at Devaney on Wednesday night and then work out at Nebraska Wesleyan before the first game.

No one is looking beyond Gibbon.

“They look solid,” Reuter observed. “But every team at state is good and you have to take them one at a time.”


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