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

By Dave Faries

Kimball At State: Longhorns Finish Fourth In C-1 Boys Basketball


Vicki Stull

Jake Reader eludes Boone Central-Newman Grove guard Carter Johnson and looks for options on the storied Devaney Sports Center court.

Saturday: Wayne 56 Kimball 50

The Longhorns ended their three-day run at state with hardware—in the form of a fourth place trophy—and an impressive, hard fought 56-50 loss to Wayne.

Kimball pulled themselves back into the fray from a 15-6 deficit in the first quarter. On the verge of destruction at the start of the fourth, they clawed back into contention again after falling behind 45-33.

“We can compete,” head coach Bruce Tjosvold said of his team.

The Blue Devils entered the final period on an 8-0 run. And Kimball’s engagement in the battle started quietly, from the line—Jake Reader and Mike Daum each sinking a pair of charity shots.

Moments later the Longhorns’ lanky center, who terrorized Wayne in the paint to the tune of 30 points and 15 rebounds, stepped out and drained his only three of the game.

“Inside couldn’t bring us back,” he explained.

Yet they needed points from every quarter. With close to 5:00 left, Caleb Reuter pounded into the lane, forced himself against the Blue Devil’s interior line and scored.

“You have to hustle,” he said. “I just did a power dribble and went up.”

Wayne’s Jalen Barry snatched two points back from the stripe. But Daum hit them again, grabbing a quick pass from Austin Pile and taking it to the hole. A minute later he went to the line after being hacked in the process of shooting and added two more. The Longhorns were within 4 points, 50-46, but time was ticking away.

Forced to foul, Kimball had to attack Barry, a sure-shot guard. He converted four consecutive free throws. In the process, the Longhorns lost Zach Rockhold-O’Brien—the one responsible for attacking Wayne’s point man—to foul trouble.

“They just kept making their shots,” Reader said.

Kimball closed out its memorable 2012-13 season with a 21-3 record and the honor of fourth place in state at the class C-1 level, achieving this as the smallest C-1 school in Lincoln and the squad that traveled further than any other, with the exception of class B Scottsbluff.

“We’re very proud of that,” Daum acknowledged, “but we could have done more.”

Daum rebounded from an off night in the semi-final round to lead both sides in scoring.

“This game I came out and wanted to have fun—just play basketball,” he explained.

Tjosvold’s Longhorns opened the season at the end of November, suffered just one regular season defeat, fended with the best in Lincoln and ended the year in early March with medals and a trophy.

“It was a great season,” outgoing senior Rockhold-O’Brien said. “The team—I love them.”

For Reuter, Pile, Jordon Berger, Bernie Bridge and Nolan Adrian the trip to Lincoln also marked their final moments in Longhorns’ red.

“We’re going to miss the seniors,” Reader admitted. “They’re a great group.”

But a core of talent returns. And they clearly expect to build on this season’s success.

“Every team is good, every shot is a tough shot,” Reader added. “This is just experience for next year.”

Friday: Boone Central-Newman Grove 53 Kimball 33

At the end of Friday’s semi-final contest on the big stage, Devaney Sports Center, Zach Rockhold-O’Brien could only ponder the what-ifs.

“They’re a great team,” he said of Boone Central-Newman Grove, the tournament’s eventual runners up. “It would’ve been a battle.”

But Kimball never challenged in a 53-33 pasting. The team shot a woeful 1 for 13 from the floor in the first period, muffed the ball 18 times, put only one shooter in double-digits and lost both Mike Daum and Jake Reader to foul trouble.

After a slow start, the Cardinals—an underrated 7 seed coming into the action—dominated in just about every aspect.

“A lot of it was me; I got flustered,” Daum said, shouldering the blame. “I came out and missed a couple shots, and it was a head game from then on.”

The usually reliable center scored just six points before fouling out—also a rare sight—at the 2:59 mark in the third quarter. Reader followed him to the bench with 6:27 remaining in the game, though not before knocking down a team high 11 points.

“Obviously foul trouble was an issue,” Caleb Reuter explained. “But I thought we played hard all game. We shouldn’t have our heads down.”

Indeed, the Longhorns’ shut down Boone Central-Newman Grove throughout a tense first quarter. It wasn’t until a steal and coast to coast lay up by Tyler Hedlund with just 40 seconds remaining in the period that the Cardinals took their first lead.

“The defense did a good job early,” head coach Bruce Tjosvold. “They have size, shooters—everything.”

The Cardinals knocked off 2 seed Kearney Catholic in fine style the evening before. And with Kimball’s shots banging off target, they quickly took advantage. By halftime BC-NG established a 24-13 lead. Three minutes into the third, they had upped the ante to 31-13.

“I don’t think we were nervous,” Tjosvold responded when asked if location and the largest crowd Kimball had seen played a role in their 25.5 percent shooting rate. “We were just over aggressive—trying to make a play.”

The Longhorns settled down for a spell in the third quarter. After a Reader free throw, Daum executed a strong move through two defenders, hitting two plus a bonus. Reader scored twice more, sandwiching a moment when Austin Pile found Reuter wide open underneath the rim.

As the third quarter wound down, the Longhorns drew within striking distance, 32-23.

But with Daum now sidelined, Kimball’s 10-1 spree was nullified by a 10-0 Cardinals’ run. In the final period of play, BC-NG pulled away.

If there was a silver lining in the lopsided cloud, it was that all 14 of the Kimball contingent took to the storied floor. Seven Longhorns ended up on the scoreboard.

“It’s something I can tell my children about one day,” Nolan Adrian said, referring to a late game lay up, from a Henry Heeg feed.

“Foul trouble killed us,” Tjosvold pointed out, summing up the game. “But I’m proud of the kids.”

Thursday: Kimball 62 Gibbon 58

If you glanced only at the statistics, Kimball’s opening round win at Pershing Center might be a bit difficult to explain.

Gibbon outscored the Longhorns in two of the game’s four quarters and drew even in another. Kimball turned the ball over 19 times and Buffaloes guard Rylee Reinertson scorched the scoreboard with 30 points, leading both teams.

In the end, however, only one set of numbers mattered: 62-58, in favor of the Longhorns.

“That was one heck of a game,” head coach Bruce Tjosvold beamed afterward.

His squad survived a late run by the Buffaloes by hitting 9 of 11 free throws down the stretch. Mike Daum, with 24 points, Caleb Reuter and Jake Reader all reached double-digits in scoring. But for Kimball, every point counted—and perhaps none mattered more than those put up by Austin Pile just before the halftime buzzer.

With Gibbon on top 28-21, Zach Rockhold-O’Brien’s long jumper sailed off target. But Pile darted into the lane as the ball skipped off the rim, secured the rebound flying along the baseline and—in one swift, underhand motion—flipped it home.

“I saw the shot go up,” he said. “I was just hoping for the rebound.”

The put back brought Kimball to within 5 at the break, 28-23. More importantly, it helped inspire Pile’s teammates.

Out of the break, Rockhold-O’Brien sank a three and Daum followed suit. The Buffaloes misfired and Kimball’s imposing center made them pay, driving into the paint for two more. Suddenly, Kimball held sway, 31-28.

“Our momentum swing, that was big,” Daum reported.

The players credited a slight adjustment at halftime for much of Kimball’s critical 10-0 run.

“The box and one worked well for awhile,” Tjosvold explained. “At halftime coach [Gene] Mohr said we should put Caleb in the middle as high post. Caleb had a great game.”

Not only did the senior forward crease the nylon for 17 points, he tallied a team high 6 assists—including kick outs that led to both Rockhold-O’Brien’s and Daum’s three pointers at the start of the third quarter.

“They locked down the guards and I couldn’t drive,” Rockhold-O’Brien said when asked about Reuter’s job feeding the shooters. “It was a good thing he took over.”

Reuter drained a trey himself with 1:38 remaining in the third period, part of a 9-0 Longhorns’ outburst that ended with a power move in the paint by Reader.

“I just saw the open lane,” the big junior said—forgetting to mention the bit where he wedged through three defenders to find that daylight.

Kimball held a 45-37 advantage heading into the final eight minutes. But the Buffaloes began feeding their most prolific scorer.

Reinertson averaged 23.4 points per game heading into the state tournament. He tacked on 7 before the midpoint of the fourth quarter as Gibbon fought their way back into contention.

“He got us going,” said Buffaloes’ head coach Paul Reinertson. “He’s done that all year.”

With 3:20 left to play, he hit from three point range to close the gap to a single point, 52-51.

“He’s the best I’ve played,” Rockhold-O’Brien noted with admiration—a sentiment echoed by the other Longhorns.

“All you could do was stick your hand in his face and hope for the best,” Pile added.

Gibbon flirted briefly with the lead when Ryan Milks hit a three with 2:55 remaining. Reader and Daum responded, however. And when Reinertson’s buzzer-beating trey made it a 60-58 game with a sliver of time—0.9—on the clock, Daum finished things off by sinking a pair of free throws.

“We’ve been in games like this before,” Reader said of the tense win. “The coaches said to stay calm.”

But it was something more like relief registered on some faces, as Kimball advanced to the second round for the first time since 1999.

“We survived,” Tjosvold said.


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