GARLAND, Texas -- Dallas Kimball head coach Royce "Snoop" Johnson had tears running down his face as he spoke to his team before it took the court against South Oak Cliff on Saturday.
While he didn't say much other than how proud he was of them, the emotion with which he expressed it reminded the players of all they have overcome in an up-and-down season and the bond they had formed in the process.
Kimball channeled the energy of Johnson's speech from the opening tip and rolled to an 84-63 win over South Oak Cliff, a team it had lost to twice during the regular season.
The win puts Kimball (31-5) back in the state tournament a year after winning its first title under Johnson.
"Coach gave us some kind of sermon before the game," Kimball guard Keith Frazier said. "He said something to the team that just touched everybody. We just wanted to come out here and play hard and win the game for him."
Frazier was particularly sharp early in the game, contributing in all phases and scoring a game-high 26 points to go along with eight rebounds. He scored nine in the first quarter while South Oak Cliff (30-8) was still keeping pace.
"He told me last night, 'Coach I'm a little nervous but I'm going to get you out of here tomorrow,'" Johnson said of Frazier. "I looked him right in the eye and knew he meant it and that he was going to be a great player today."
Frazier's play highlighted the size advantage that Kimball used to dominated South Oak Cliff on the boards. Forwards D'Angelo Allen (14 points), Sheldon Yearwood (13) and Trent Brinkley (12) were too deep for the Golden Bears to match inside, and it led to a lot of second-chance points on offense and one-shot possessions on defense.
Allen's play may have been the biggest difference between Saturday's game and Kimball's previous two losses to South Oak Cliff. The sophomore battled injuries and eligibility issues during the regular season. He joined the team for the last two district games but has blossomed in the playoffs.
"The first time we played them, Trent and D'Angelo were out so our inside we were lacking in the rotation," Johnson said. "We knew we could go four or five deep inside and we knew they couldn't go that deep."
The Knights took control of the game in the second quarter, going on a 17-4 run that gave them a 42-32 halftime lead. South Oak Cliff didn't get one offensive rebound during that stretch.
And it only got worse after halftime for the Golden Bears. Kimball extended its lead to 19 points by the end of the frame, a deficit South Oak Cliff didn't seriously cut into before the final buzzer.