A ‘shooting star’ is departing.
For the better part of a decade, basketball star Riley Williams has been lighting up the scoreboard in Sarnia gymnasiums – first as a high schooler at St. Clair, then as a member of the Lambton College women’s team for the past four years.
Her college career ended March 3-4 when the Lions dropped their only two games and were eliminated from the OCAA championship tournament.
It was a bit of a disappointing note to end on, admitted Williams.
“We were so close in the (opening) Mohawk game,” she said.
Lambton actually led after three quarters before surrendering 36 points in the fourth quarter of a 64-40 loss.
“Then we lost to Niagara (54-52), a team we should have beaten,” she added.
On the flip side, however, it was Lambton’s first-ever appearance at the provincial championship tournament – and it wasn’t anticipated.
“We weren’t expected to do much,” said Williams. “People thought we’d finish last this year. And with the hand we were dealt … we could have fallen apart, but we didn’t.”
The team underwent a coaching change when Pete Kaija, Williams’ long-time coach at St. Clair and Lambton, left, and was replaced by Dave Elsley.
Williams said she always liked playing for Kaija.
“I felt really comfortable with PK. He really knows the game … He had a lot of confidence in me and I had a lot of confidence in him.”
She said she didn’t know much about Elsley – having only seen him as a high school boys basketball coach – but added he handled a tough situation “really well.”
“You could tell he was more of a ‘guy’ coach,” chuckled Williams, “but he really tried to adjust for us.
“Dave and (assistant) Keith (Concisom) were both great. Their commitment was through the roof. We really wanted to win for them,” said Williams.
The other silver lining for Williams was becoming the OCAA all-time leading scorer in mid-February. Her 1,206 points surpassed a seven-year-old record of 1,178 set by Seneca’s Natasha Thombs.
“I didn’t even know anything about the record coming into the season,” said the speedy point guard. “Dave said something, in January … that I was getting close to the record. I said, ‘What record?’
“It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t know. It might have subconsciously affected me or changed the way I played,” she added.
Her thoughts on concluding her basketball career:
“It’s sad. I don’t think it’s really hit me yet, that I’m done.
“But I’m ready to grow up,” she added with a laugh, “and start to focus on other things, like a job, a career.”
Her goal is to work for the school board as an educational assistant, something she’s doing on a supply basis now.
She added she isn’t certain if she wants to play women’s recreational league basketball.
“It’s just not really all that competitive,” she said. “I love the competition.”