Waves finish 2nd in AAU national basketball tourney


After five years of almost year-round basketball, Kacy Williams and Sonia Keiner played their final game together last weekend.

The Hammond graduates helped the Maryland Waves to the best finish ever by a Maryland girls basketball team, second place at the 18-and-under AAU national championships that concluded last Sunday in Cleveland. The Waves lost the title game, 81-78, to the North Carolina Flight.

"I didn't even think about that until now, but I guess that was our last game playing together," said Keiner, who is headed for Towson State while Williams moves on to Georgetown. "It's gonna be weird because we've been playing together since eighth grade. I just know I wouldn't want her for an opponent."

Williams and Keiner, who have been friends since kindergarten, practically rewrote the Hammond record book while leading the Golden Bears to two state championships. Over the past three years, they have helped the Waves build in similar fashion.

"Each year has been a progression," said Williams, who along with Keiner also went to nationals in 1991 on a Howard County team that did not win a game. "That first year, we got killed. Then we won two games. Last year, we won three games and came in the top 20. This year, we were 8-2 and made it to the championship."

The Waves, coached by Kacy's father, Tom Williams, boasted a who's who of Maryland girls basketball.

The team included Western's Chanel Wright, who shared All-Metro Player of the Year honors with Williams last winter; McDonogh's Sonia Chase, an All-Metro first-teamer; and Easton's Kelley Gibson. While Williams started at point guard, those three did most of the scoring.

Tiki Nicholson and Tameka Harrison, who will be seniors at Hammond this year, moved up from the Waves' 16-and-under team for the national tournament, but they saw limited action.

With so much talent, even Keiner, a second-team All-Metro pick, had to come off the bench as the sixth man.

"It's basically an all-star team and not everyone can be a starter," said Keiner. "It takes some getting used to, but we just had so much talent."

The Waves won their first eight games in the 10-day tournament with Williams and Keiner coming up big in the two closest contests.

On her 18th birthday, Williams scored the game-winner with six seconds left in a 74-72 first-round victory over Illinois. Keiner turned in her best performance with 12 points in an 80-77 overtime win against Michigan in the semifinal.

That win sent the Waves up against the defending champ North Carolina Flight and its star, Tiffany Johnson, a 6-5 All-America center headed for Tennessee.

"Our only shortcoming was that we didn't have a really big person to offset a player like Tiffany," said Tom Williams. "That was the only position we couldn't match up against. If we had had a big girl, we might have been able to take it."

Unfortunately for the Waves, neither of their centers, Mount Hebron's Rachel Cimmier nor Lake Clifton's Natisha Ferguson, could make the trip to nationals. Cimmier, an exchange student from France, opted for a visit home before starting her senior year at Maryland.

With no one to match up against her, Johnson scored 31 points in an 81-64 Flight victory last Sunday. Since the Flight had emerged from the losers' bracket with one loss, that win forced a second game for the championship an hour and a half later. Johnson scored 32 in the 81-78 final.

"We tried the same things that had gotten us that far, but against North Carolina they worked on everybody but the big girl," said Tom Williams. "We tried all kinds of trick defenses, we tried to get her in foul trouble; but nothing worked. She was so quick, had such soft hands and knew how to use that big body. She was just a great player."

Still, no one was really disappointed with the second-place finish.

"Nobody expected that," said Keiner. "We knew we had a lot of talent and we knew we could go pretty far, but we didn't know we'd go that far. It was just a matter of being able to execute and work together."

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