Guards, not forwards, lead Kimball to state title

(Box score from the UIL)

AUSTIN, Texas -- The frontcourt got Dallas Kimball to the state title game. The backcourt won it.

Often hidden in the shadow of Kimball's "big three" -- forwards Jordan Williams, Jarion Henry and Jalen Jones -- Kimball's guards showed how good they are in their biggest game of the year.

Game MVP Shannon Lilly had a stellar night shooting, Austin Franklin helped slow down La Marque superstar Julien Lewis and Oscar Lewis ran the point as Kimball won its first state title since 1997 with a 78-64 win on Saturday at UT's Frank Erwin Center.

"Everytime I talk to people they talk about the big three," said Kimball head coach Royce Johnson. "I used to ask them 'Which big three are you talking about?'"

Lilly scored a team-high 23 points and added five rebounds. He went 5-for-6 from 3-point range, fueling Kimball's 66 percent shooting percentage from beyond the arc.

His sharp-shooting helped Kimball (38-3) build a huge first-half lead that reached 42-30 at halftime after Lilly hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the junior continued his onslaught in the third quarter as he opened the frame with back-to-back treys.

"We got on the team real quick," Lilly said of the first half. "Coach Snoop [Johnson] was like 'The start of the game determines the end.' We had to get our lead."

Fresh off his lockdown performance against Dallas Lincoln's LeBryan Nash, Franklin drew another difficult defensive assignment, this time against Lewis, who had an atrocious first half shooting because of Franklin's relentless pressure.

Lewis whiffed on countless 3-pointers while his Kimball counterparts seemingly couldn't miss. Franklin finished with 15 points of us own in addition to 3 assists.

"As soon as our game was over Thursday I told coach 'I want him,'" Franklin said of Lewis. "He said 'Austin, you got him.'"

But things turned around for Lewis in the second half after Franklin hit the bench because of foul trouble. Kimball's lead, which reached 15 in the third quarter, quickly eroded as Lewis heated up.

The Texas signee, who finished with 26 points, scored 13 in the third quarter alone and closed the frame with six unanswered points to cut Kimball's lead to 55-47 entering the fourth quarter.

Four Lewis free throws midway through the fourth made it a one-possession game at 60-57 with a little over 2 minutes remaining, but one of Kimball's highly touted forwards sealed the win.

Jones connected on all 10 of his free-throw attempts down the stretch and scored 12 of his 19 points in the final 3 minutes of the game.

"We lost a couple of games early because of free throws," Johnson said. "I remember my dad [former Kimball coach Goree Johnson] said 'Y'all aren't going to get out of here if you can't make free throws.' When we got to seven in a row, I told Jalen Jones 'We need three more.'"