Last-second 3 earns Kimball back-to-back titles

AUSTIN, Texas -- Dallas Kimball pulled out a come-from-behind 78-75 win over Houston Yates for its second straight 4A state championship.

Kimball trailed state nemesis Yates, 75-73 with just over twelve seconds left as forward Sheldon Yearwood held the ball at the free throw line.

Junior star recruit Keith Frazier, who had a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds, was on the floor. Last year’s 4A championship MVP Shannon Lilly, who had hit five 3-pointers as a part of a game-high 27 points, checked in.

Yearwood's pass went to junior Torrey Henry, who threw up a wide-open 3-point attempt.

“I had confidence in him,” Yearwood said.

The ball hadn’t finished spinning through the nylon before most of those in attendance at the Frank Erwin Center jumped to their feet.

Seconds later after a missed Yates 3-point try, Kimball (34-5) celebrated its 4th boys state basketball championship, the second in as many years, over Yates (33-6).

“All year long this group of kids -- they're a young group -- but someone always found a way to step up,” Kimball coach Royce Johnson said. “That’s what we talked about before the game and at halftime and going into the fourth quarter -- someone was going to have to hit a big shot.”

Returning to the spotlight was Lilly, hitting clutch 3-pointers in the second half that led to his second MVP award in two years. His personal additions to the Kimball trophy case rank him among some of the most influential players in the storied Kimball basketball program, Johnson said.

That intense action from Lilly and the Knights wasn’t there throughout the entire game. Kimball began the game hesitant, which showed in the free throw column of the first-half score sheet.

Yates hit 17 of 21 from the stripe, counter to Kimball’s meager 4-for-7. Kimball settled for the outside shot, which gave it a 33.3 percent shooting percentage and a 36-30 deficit at the break.

Kimball ignited some passion in the second half, picking up its pace on offense. In turn, the Knights dominated the fast-break game, scoring 23 points in transition.

Ironically, it was perimeter shooting that would ultimately seal the game for Kimball.

Lilly began the Knights' comeback with a step-back 3-pointer with just under two minutes to play, which Johnson said “opened the door” for Kimball’s resurgence.

When the ball found Henry’s hands in the corner, Johnson first tried to shout a reminder to his player that Kimball trailed by only two.

“I was trying to remind him what the score was and tell him to drive. “I always tell my players to have confidence,” Johnson said. “As a coach, I’m going to tell you what I think, but don’t be afraid to make a play and I think that’s what he did. He locked in and when he let it go, I felt good because he didn’t hesitate. He was trying to win.”

That 3 exercised two demons that have haunted Kimball in the last ten years. It vindicated the Knights from a loss to Yates in the state finals in 2009. It also put Kimball on the winning side of a last-second victory, healing the emotional wounds inflicted on Johnson after losing the state championship in 2002 on a half-court prayer.

“Tonight we got over ’02. We hit the big shot and we’re over it," Johnson said.

With those shortcomings put to rest, Henry began a new chapter in the collective memory of Kimball basketball by burying one shot.

“It was history,” Johnson said.