For 16 minutes, Travis Williams was having a rough supersectional.
The Newman senior was held scoreless in the first half against Providence St. Mel, shooting 0-for-7 from the field.
But in the second half, he turned things around, scoring 11 points – including the game-winning free throw – in a 61-60 victory.
“They were blocking all my shots I tried to take inside,” he said. “I had to use a lot more pump-fakes when I wasn’t even inside, but also had to utilize my outside shot more. I had to trust in my shot, and luckily the shots I did take went in.”
All he had to show for the first half were two rebounds and a steal. In the second half, he pulled down five more rebounds, dished out four assists, and grabbed another steal.
The rebound that did the most to put Newman over the top was the last one. With the score tied 60-60 and the ball in the Comets’ hands in the closing seconds, Devon House drove to the rim to try to win the game. His shot was off target, but Williams was in position to claim the rebound – all while getting shoved in the back by St. Mel’s Samuel Herenton.
That sent Williams to the line for a pair of free throws with 1.1 seconds left.
“I just knew, fourth quarter, game on the line, season on the line, that any play I had to make, to go for it,” Williams said.
St. Mel had a 12-3 rebounding edge early, and used three offensive rebounds to score six second-chance points in the first 4 minutes of the game. From that point on, the Knights still outrebounded Newman, but by a more balanced 35-32 margin.
“We just had to find them when the shot went up and put a body on them,” Williams said. “We just knew that if we wanted to get the boards, we had to box them out. They got by us a couple times, but luckily at the end, we got as many as we could.”
He may not have had the 26 points House put up, or the 18 Cade Gorzny added (on 5-for-8 shooting from 3-point range), but Williams came up with points when Newman needed them.
The Knights had cut the lead to one early in the third quarter when Williams scored his first points of the night on a 3-pointer from the top of the key. After St. Mel retook the lead, Williams hit another 3 with 56 seconds left in the third quarter to put Newman back on top 44-43.
“Travis is a tremendous leader and a tremendous worker,” Newman coach Ray Sharp said. “He wasn’t going to hang his head. That’s just the kind of kid he is. He’s going to Notre Dame for college next year. That tells you the kind of student he is and how hard he works, and hard work pays off.”
After Williams hit his free throw, and after St. Mel’s desperation heave from midcourt fell short, and after the Comets posed for photos with the plaque in their hands, the players walked down the tunnel back to the locker room. In the entryway to the tunnel, greeting them and congratulating them was a former Comet who knows this floor well, and who Williams played alongside back when he was a sophomore: Noah McCarty.
“He was congratulating us, telling us we did a good job,” Williams said. “On that journey [in the 2015-16 season], it was really devastating when we lost that game [to Rockridge in the 2A Princeton Sectional semifinal]. Since then, we’ve been working hard, trying to get to this point again.
“I just love this team so much. We wouldn’t have gone this far if we didn’t work hard and believe in each other. That’s what got us to this point.”