DALLAS – It was conceivable that both Dallas Kimball and Dallas Hillcrest could make long runs through the 4A boys basketball playoffs.
The brackets had other plans for these teams, pairing them in the first round.
Kimball (27-5) was victorious in the rematch of the DISD/Coca-Cola Tournament championship, ending Hillcrest’s (23-6) season, 82-70.
“You couldn’t expect to meet anybody of greater caliber of basketball than the Kimball Knights,” Hillcrest coach Von Harris said. “If you’re going to prove yourself, you might as well play those guys. They have a lot of tradition and they’re well coached.”
It was veteran guard Shannon Lilly, who already has plenty of Kimball tradition under his belt, including a state tournament MVP plaque, who led the charge for his team, netting a game-high 26 points.
His scoring was key in the third quarter, when Kimball stormed out of the locker room to go on a 16-2 run. Lilly hit three from behind the arc in the frame.
“He’s a big part of this team,” Kimball guard Keith Frazier said. “We need him to win. He’s a great leader and a good guy. When we need Shannon, he’s been stepping up for us big time.”
Behind what would be a game-winning run was a secret plan held close to the vest all season by Kimball coach Royce Johnson. The change in game plan wasn’t obvious to the naked eye, but Johnson said it had a little to do with the matchups he put in place during halftime. That included matching Frazier on Hillcrest leading scorer Julius Foster in the second half.
“You try not to show it all,” Johnson said. “Not to say we don’t care about the regular season, but it’s seven games or nothing. We kept something in our pocket and it worked in the second half.”
Hillcrest wouldn’t say die, despite being down by 20 after the third quarter, and managed a run that was sparked by two quick 3’s from guard Danial Haieleul. Hillcrest pulled within nine in the final minutes of the game but could never manage one more strong push to get within striking distance.
In Johnson’s eyes, the MVPs of Tuesday’s win was the DISD athletic training staff, who had their hands full every moment before the bi-district match.
Kimball post Sheldon Yearwood, who dominated the glass and put up nine points for the Knights, was sidelined at every practice since Kimball’s last game with an injury to his quad. Johnson said the training staff worked tirelessly to get Yearwood into playing shape for Tuesday.
“Thanks to the DISD trainers working around the clock with us -- NBA style,” Johnson said. “We had to get him on the floor. We needed an inside advantage because they were carried by their guards. We had to focus on our bigs getting an advantage for us.”
Kimball’s road to return to state might be one of the most challenging of any area team. After knocking off ESPN Dallas No. 7 Hillcrest in the bi-district round, Kimball advances to face 4A No. 1 Highland Park in the area round later this week.
However, Johnson said the opponent hasn’t mattered to his team any time this season. It’s just up to his coaching staff to “go to work” beginning Tuesday night.
“This group is overlooking no one,” Johnson said. “They just want another day to practice.”