Huntington alum Nicholas Smith chasing Texas 5A state title

March 12, 2021 is a day that fits on my personal basketball highlight reel.

It provided two of the best last-second finishes on any level of basketball in my experience. Nick Maryland drained a jumper with 1.5 seconds left to give Simsboro the Class B state title over Anacoco. The other, all of 25 minutes later, was going down 338 miles away in San Antonio.

Former Huntington star-turned-Dallas Kimball head coach Nicholas (Nicke) Smith had coached his troops to a 70-68 lead over Beaumont United in the Texas Class 5A championship game. With 8.4 seconds left in overtime, Smith and the Knights were now one defensive stop away from the program’s first state title since 2014 and Smith’s first as a head coach.

All of a sudden, Terrance Arceneaux happened.

His 3-pointer with 3 seconds left gave Beaumont United its first state title. Smith was denied a state championship as coach, just as he had been denied as a player for talented Raiders teams.

“That loss was heartbreaking,” said Smith. “It is something that none of us have forgotten.”

Fast forward to current day, and the Huntington grad has another chance to take the Kimball Knights to the promised land. Fresh out the gate in San Antonio, they will get a chance to avenge their finals loss by playing Beaumont United on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

This is Smith’s eighth season as head coach at Kimball. He has a very talented squad headed by University of Texas signee Arterio Morris and Clemson signee Chauncey Gibson.

Smith definitely has not forgotten the sting of the loss. He is using that experience, along with ones from his playing days at Huntington, to prepare for this trip to San Antonio.

“In ‘92, we had some dudes (at Huntington). However, we were not the most disciplined bunch,” he said. ”We did take pride in our defense, however. After last year (at Kimball), we know what level of defense it takes to win. Once you have been in that situation, you know what to expect. We have a ‘I might score but I won’t let you score on me’ mentality. It is similar to the defensive pride that the ‘92 squad had.”

While the Kimball faithful may see this as a revenge game, Smith has a different view of what this game means.

“They are the defending state champions. Right now, we have the mentality that they are in our way. We have to go through them to be state champions.”

Kimball is 5-0 right now in the playoffs after defeating Frisco Memorial 80-67 in overtime. Even if his Knights get by Beaumont United, they will have to battle with the winner of the Mansfield Timberview-Boerne Champion game. Needless to say, their championship road is a tough one.

Smith also had some thoughts about this year’s Huntington squad. The Raiders are in a similar situation to the Knights as they must face a nationally-rated team in the semifinals. Huntington encounters Carver Collegiate from New Orleans on Wednesday for the right to play for the 4A state championship.

“I am proud of this Huntington team and what they have accomplished,” said Smith. “I have not spoken with Mack (Jones) as of yet but I plan to. Especially with what has happened recently with Devin (Myers, the Raiders’ guard who was shot to death Thursday), this would be a storybook ending. Coach Jones is a friend, so I want to see him get him one. With losing Devin as a starter, everyone needs to step up to bring a championship home to Huntington.”

If Coach Smith leads the Kimball Knights to two more victories and Huntington finds a way to reach the 4A title game and prevail, the Raider family will indeed be celebrating two titles on Saturday night.

RAIDER TO KNIGHT: Dallas Kimball High basketball coach Nicke Smith, a proud Huntington grad, instructs Power 5 signees Arterio Morris and Chauncey Gibson. (Submitted photo)