It didn’t matter that it wasn’t an official Big 5 game. Two Philadelphia teams were playing on Saturday night and Philly kid Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble wanted the ball in his hands in the final seconds.
“I live for that type of moment,” Kimble said.
The sophomore guard will remember the moment for a long time as he buried the game-winning jumper with 15 seconds left to lead Saint Joseph’s to a dramatic 73-72 win over La Salle in an Atlantic 10 matchup Saturday night at Hagan Arena (see Instant Replay).
“He’s a kid who loves Philadelphia games,” St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli said.
Kimble, a former star at Neumann-Goretti High, has certainly played well against Big 5 rivals, pouring in 23 points in a win over Penn last week after previously scoring 12 and 15 against Temple and Villanova, respectively. (Mark your calendar for when Kimble and the Hawks play La Salle again on Feb. 18 — the game that will count toward the Big 5 standings).
But things haven’t been all peachy this season for Kimble, who’s had to carry a big load after backcourt-mate Shavar Newkirk suffered a season-ending knee injury and the Hawks sputtered to a 2-5 mark in his absence heading into Saturday’s game. And Kimble, too, has struggled with his midrange game at times, as he tries to develop into a more complete college basketball player.
All of that made the sophomore’s game-winning shot from the elbow even more gratifying.
“I guess today I really wanted to will that shot in,” Kimble said. “That’s kind of the approach I took. We’ve been losing a lot — and games at the end too. For us to turn it around and be able to come out with a win in a tight game against a good team, that’s a great win.”
Martelli was less enthusiastic about the victory, lamenting many aspects of his team’s performance, particularly their “awful” free throw shooting; the Hawks shot 9 for 17 from the line.
But he was glad to see Kimble, only the third sophomore captain in program history, to step up when his team needed him most.
“He hasn’t made that shot,” Martelli said. “We’ve talked to him a lot about his eyes being on the rim. His eyes are always down and he’s been short-arming things. … But he’s well-received by his teammates and I’m glad he has the keys to the house, so to speak.”
After Kimble put the Hawks ahead by one, it was Jordan Price’s turn to try to hit a big shot of his own. But the La Salle star, who had scored 21 points and 16 points in the second half, missed at the buzzer after getting into the lane.
“I’m really appreciative of the crowd,” Martelli said. “We were the home team and the ball didn’t go in for them on the last play.”
It was a good look, though.
“A one foot shot?” La Salle coach John Giannini said. “I like a one-foot shot.”
Price also missed a shot on the previous possession with La Salle clinging to a one-point lead. But Giannini was mostly upset with some turnovers and “foolish fouls” down the stretch after a rough first half when Price only had five points and few other players were able to get going as the Explorers fell behind by eight en route to their third straight loss.
“I thought we were atrocious in the first half,” the La Salle coach said. “I thought in the second half we really played well. But we have to understand what goes into winning close games.”
The Hawks, who are trying to climb up from near the bottom of the Atlantic 10 standings, still need to learn more about winning close games, too. But they took a big step in that direction as sophomore Chris Clover (21 points), freshman Charlie Brown (15 points) and junior James Demery (13 points) joined Kimble (14 points) in double figures in what was one of the team’s most balanced efforts of the season.
The play of Clover was especially promising considering the former St. Joseph’s Prep star and Philadelphia Catholic League MVP only scored 10 points during his entire freshman campaign and hadn’t scored more than 11 points in any game this season.
Until Saturday when he surpassed his career high midway through the first half and set the Hawks on their way to a big city win.
“Chris’ confidence is rising every game and we’re confident in him,” said Kimble of his old Philadelphia Catholic League rival. “He could do big things as seen today. He’s capable of scoring and going on a run like that. For him to come out and produce like that in his first breakout game, I’m definitely happy for him.”