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‘Dogs Kimler defensive force in two sports

Seldom, if ever, is an athlete mentioned as one his league’s top defensive players in two different sports.

 Well, folks, meet Nederland’s Colton Kimler, a rugged and muscular 6-2, 210-pound senior, who just may be that very person.

 And tonight at 7:30 p.m., Kimler and the Bulldogs take a short hop down I-10 to Barbers Hill High School for a battle with District 18-4A champ Montgomery in the area round of Class 4A state playoffs. The Nederland-Montgomery victor advances to face the Ozen-Manor winner next Tuesday in the 4A regional quarterfinals.

 After going head-to-head with Beaumont Central and Ozen’s much taller front line players in District 20-4A play, Kimler, despite being somewhat limited in basketball height, has rapidly emerged as one of the true defensive standouts in Southeast Texas.

 Kimler displayed his unique stand-his-ground, in-your-face intensity Tuesday night in limiting Summer Creek’s highly recruited 6-8 junior Paul Thomas to only 15 points in the Bulldogs’ 50-45 bidistrict win. Tonight, Kimler’s defensive task looms even larger as he will often be matched up against Montgomery’s 6-7, 220-pound senior big man Currie Byrd.

 In the fall, Kimler earned 20-4A Defensive MVP honors in football as a defensive back. One can also argue his efforts on the hardwood this season against bigger players night in and night out may also place him at or near the top when roundball top defensive honors are handed out at season’s end.

 “My whole life, I’ve been very intense in every sport I’ve participated in,” said the highly intelligent stopper, who turned down a football scholarship to Lamar University so he can concentrate on academics at LU. Next fall, he’ll major in biology, then wants pursue law school when he graduates.

 Few athletes prefer being a great defensive player, instead concentrating on offense. But even fewer high school athletes have the mentality it takes to bang with the big guys, go head-up with the opposition’s leading scorer, muscle for rebounds, and scrape their knees nightly diving on the floor for loose balls.

 It’s something Nederland’s No. 14 is born to do.

 “I love playing physical basketball — it’s when I feel I contribute the most. I like being an intimidator,” Kimler said with a big smile.

 When Nederland coach Brian English was asked to describe his standout defender in a couple of words, he countered with five simple words. “Tenacity, it’s just his nature.”

 The Bulldogs, now 23-8 and winners of 19 of their final 23 games, will face an 18-13 Montgomery team that’s resurrected itself from a dismal 5-12 injury-plagued start in mid-December to win 13 out of its final 14 games. On Tuesday, the Bears defeated Bastrop 62-53 in bidistrict play.

 Don Johnson, head coach at Montgomery for the past 19 seasons, brings a team into the area round that has captured back-to-back district titles (his first district championships while at Montgomery after numerous playoff appearances). Much like Nederland, the Bears relief on defense to win games. In 18-4A play, Johnson’s team went 13-3 and allowed opponents only 45.8 points a game, while scoring at a 52.7 clip.

 Besides leading scorer, top defender, and three-year starter Byrd (who averages double figures in points and rebounds), the Bears also rely on 6-2, 200-pound sophomore post Dean Bowers (18 points in bidistrict), and the outside shooting of seniors Cooper Bell (6-0, 170) and Matt Garrett (6-3, 180).

 “We try to rely on our defense and force turnovers,” said the Bears’ mentor. “We’re not much of a running team, but we do play really good defense.”

 Johnson didn’t have a lot to say about Nederland, but he did say that “the key to the ball game is whether our big guy (Byrd) or Nederland’s outstanding post Weisbrod (Colton) stays out of in foul trouble.”

 “I’ve known about Weisbrod for several years and he’s very difficult to handle inside.”

 Weisbrod leads the way for English’s club, scoring just over 26 points a game and pulling down 14 rebounds a night. Although Weisbrod is one of the best inside players at 6-5 to come out of our area in several years, the Bears should find out in a hurry that in Kimler they’ll also be facing one of the top defenders they’ve seen this season.