Skins Win On Record-Breaking Night

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It was a historic night for Nokomis basketball on Tuesday, Jan. 21, yet appropriately enough, the play of the game came in decidedly un-Nokomis fashion as the Redskins pulled out a 54-49 overtime win over Gateway Legacy Christian Academy at the 2020 Rick McGraw Memorial Invitational in Litchfield.

With 14 seconds to play in the fourth quarter and the Redskins down three, senior Alex Tosetti calmly drilled a three-pointer from the volleyball line that tied the game at 44 and eventually sent it to overtime, where Nokomis would outscore their opponents 10-5.

The three wasn't just a key to Nokomis advancing to the championship bracket at Litchfield, but it also helped give Coach Steve Kimbro his 827th win, moving him to fourth most in the history of IHSA boys basketball, and provided a happy ending for teammate Carter Sabol, who surpassed 1997 grad Mike Havera to become the school's all-time leading scorer in boys basketball.

"It makes it a lot better," Sabol said of the win. "If I would have gotten the scoring record, but we wouldn't have won, it wouldn't have felt as good."

For Coach Kimbro, Tosetti's three was one of those plays that he appreciated more in the seconds after it hit the bottom of the net, than in the seconds just before that occurred.

"Do you want me to say it was a set play?" Coach Kimbro said with a smirk. "We have some three-point plays, but we have a rule that you don't come down and shoot a three in transition unless you're under two or three minutes, the game's on the line and you have to have it. He felt it and it went in." 

Kimbro said that Tosetti's willingness to take that shot at that time is part of the secret to three-point shooting.

"It's one of those where if he makes it he's the hero and if he misses it he's the dog. But he wanted the shot and that's as important as anything," he said. "To me three-point shooting is as much as the commitment of making the shot and not saying should I or shouldn't I. But I wouldn't know because I never shot a three."

What Kimbro has done is win... a lot. Now in his 39th and final year, Kimbro's 827 wins passed Peoria Manual legend Dick Van Scyoc for fourth all-time. The only three to have more wins are Gene Pingatore with 987, Steve Goers with 881 and Neil Alexander, Kimbro's friend and former Nokomis teammate, who is at 848 and counting. Kimbro's Redskins will meet Alexander's Railers on Feb. 1, in Lincoln.

"It's nice. It says I've been around a lot of years. The program has been successful because of all the people in it and how hard the kids have worked over the years," Kimbro said. "I inherited a good program from two hall of famers in Loren Wallace and Maury Hough. As the term goes, I hope I've been a good steward of it."

The anticipation of the game may have played a factor in the closeness of the outcome, with Gateway Legacy's talented and diverse roster also coming into play.

The Redskins led by one, 15-14, after the first quarter and 23-20 at halftime, but only Sabol and Tosetti made field goals in the first 16 minutes.

That trend continued into the third, where Sabol scored eight of the ten Nokomis points, with freshman Elijah Auman accounting for the other two points on a pair of free throws with 90 seconds to play.

" We need to get contributions from everybody else. In the last game I thought that was the best we had executed our offense all year. We had a couple people with eight, one with nine, then Carter with 23. And we didn't have Alex," Kimbro said, referring to Nokomis' pool play win over Father McGivney. "It wasn't going to be that way against this team. They're athletic and make you do a lot of things. We have to continue to find a balance and try to plug up some of the holes in our defense."

For their part, the Lions found some of those holes, getting 16 points in the quarter to take a 36-33 lead going into the fourth. They would never trail in the fourth quarter, but Tosetti's game-tying three was a momentum killer and Sabol, relaxed from getting the milestone out of the way, scored all ten points in a dominant overtime quarter for the Redskins.

"It's been a four year chase and he's done a good job. He still gets a little quick around the basket sometimes and we've been working on it," Kimbro said of Sabol. "Hopefully a game like this will help him relax inside."

Sabol finished with a career-best 38 in the win, giving him 61 points in two games at Litchfield, the most of any player. Tosetti finished with nine, all from behind the three-point line, while Evan Herpstreith (three), Seth Johnson (two) and Elijah Aumann (two) rounded out the scoring.

The win sets up a rematch for the Redskins with the tournament's top seed, Triad. The Knights beat Mt. Zion 72-41 and Greenville 66-51 in their two pool play games and also own a victory over Nokomis from the Stove Top Classic in November.

"I'm looking forward to another shot at Triad. We saw them the second game of the year and they got up on us, we closed the gap to four or five then they ended up winning by 11," said Kimbro, whose team will get a couple of much needed days of rest before taking on the Knights on Friday, Jan. 24, at 6 p.m. Now it's going to come down to who has improved the most and who is going to go out and execute their game plan better."

January 21 at Litchfield

Rick McGraw Memorial Invite

Nokomis 15 8 10 11 10 54

Gateway Leg. 14 6 16 8 5 49

Nokomis (54) - Carter Sabol 38, Alex Tosetti 9, Evan Herpstreith 3, Seth Johnson 2, Elijah Aumann 2. Totals: 15 17-23 54.

Gateway Legacy (49) - Sebastian Medina 16, Felipe Garcia 12, Jose Cortes 7, David Mbaye 4, Alex Mena 4, Miguel Rojas 3, Alexander Mamaev 3. Totals: 16 5-7 49.

Three-point field goals: Nokomis 5 (Tosetti 3, Sabol 2); Gateway Legacy 6 (Garcia 2, Cortes 1, Rojas 1, Medina 1, Mamaev 1).

Record: Nokomis (11-6).

Pool A: 1. Triad (2-0); 8. Greenville (1-1); 9. Mt. Zion (0-2)

Pool B: 2. Pana (2-0); 7. Civic Memorial (1-1); 10. Ramsey (0-2)

Pool C: 3. Taylorville (2-0); 6. Litchfield (0-2); 11. Hillsboro (1-1)

Pool D: 4. Gateway Legacy (1-1); 5. Nokomis (2-0); 12. Father McGivney (0-2)

Pool Play - Day 3

Tuesday, January 21

• Triad 66, Greenville 51

• Taylorville 69, Litchfield 41

• Pana 75, Civic Memorial 61

• Nokomis 54, Gateway Legacy 49

Ninth Place Bracket

at Panther Gym

Thursday, January 23

6 p.m. - Mt. Zion vs. Father McGivney

7:30 p.m. - Ramsey vs. Litchfield

Friday, January 24

6 p.m. - 11th Place Game

7:30 p.m. - 9th Place Game

Fifth Place Bracket

at Simmons Gym

Thursday, January 23

6 p.m. - Greenville vs. Gateway Legacy

7:30 p.m. - Civic Memorial vs. Hillsboro

Saturday, January 25

2:30 p.m. - 7th Place Game

4 p.m. - 5th Place Game

Championship Bracket

at Simmons Gym

Friday, January 24

6 p.m. - Triad vs. Nokomis

7:30 p.m. - Pana vs. Taylorville

Saturday, January 25

5:30 p.m. - 3rd Place Game

7 p.m. - Championship Game

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