Williams, Waubonsie Valley top Naperville Central in overtime
Waubonsie Valley girls basketball coach Brett Love is emphasizing two things to his crew as the regular season winds down, confidence and momentum.
With two shots, her only two baskets of the evening Tuesday, senior forward Halle Williams may very well have given her team both.
Williams, who stands 5-foot-11, canned a 3-pointer from the top right of the key with 15.3 seconds left against Naperville Central, which tied the game and sent the girls basketball contest into overtime.
Then, for good measure, she hit another to start the scoring in the extra period. That sparked a 13-3 run that allowed the Warriors to win 70-63 in Aurora.
"Williams, that was a big shot," Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum said. "The 3 to tie, that was a big basket."
On a night that saw the Redhawks hit 13 3-point baskets of their own, there were none bigger than the two Williams hit for the Warriors (12-13, 6-3 DuPage Valley Conference).
"It wasn't a great shooting night for me, but coach always says keep shooting the ball, you're a shooter," said Williams, who finished with 6 points and 3 rebounds. "You knock down big-time shots and that's what I did."
And what of the key shot at the end of regulation?
"When I caught it, I was open; I knew they were 3 feet off of me," she said. "Coach always expresses how he wants me to shoot when I'm open, and shoot with somebody in my face. So I just let it go. It felt good, it looked good, it was straight, and when it went in, I was like, There it is."
The game plan for Love was to score first in the overtime, and Williams obliged, with another 3 at 3:44, from the exact same spot as the first. Naperville Central junior guard Gabi Melby came down and hit one of her own at 3:23, but then Warriors junior shooting guard Mykah Berkompas matched that 17 seconds later, which gave her team an insurmountable 63-58 lead.
Waubonsie Valley went 7 of 9 from the free-throw line in the final 1:18. The best Naperville Central could do was a 3 from senior guard Emily Spisak and a Melby layup.
"I tell her to shoot the ball all the time," Love said of Williams. "And that's what she does. She'll go 0-for-whatever, and still tie a game or win a game for us with a 3-pointer. She did it last year and continues to do it this year."
Added senior forward Ahniya Melton, who finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds: "I was so proud of her. It was such a big shot, she wasn't making them all game, and throughout the game I was saying, Get out of your own head."
Of course, it was a gut-wrenching loss for the Redhawks (19-11, 6-3), though they put four scorers in double figures: Melby with 23 points, Spisak with 12, senior guard Katlyn Allen with 11 and senior forward Lauren Umbright with 10. But it just wasn't quite enough.
"Every game, even if it's a win or loss, we have to learn from everything we do," Melby said. "Learn from our mistakes, learn from what we did well and didn't do well."