Shamika Williams took advantage of a teaching moment in the Catonsville girls basketball team's 55-53 win over Milford Mill on Wednesday that illustrated not only how far she has come as a leader, but also how far she might be able to take the Comets toward a state title.
Williams, a 5-foot-8 guard, had just scored seven points in a 10-2 run to get Catonsville out of a seven-point hole, when, with 10 seconds left in the first half, one of Williams' teammates traveled while attempting to rush up the floor to get a shot.
Williams, a junior, pulled her teammate over and pointed to the clock and to her head, encouraging the freshman to think about the game situation. The moment passed and things went back to normal for Williams and her teammate. It was just business, nothing personal.
"It was just emotional," Williams said. "It wasn't being mean or anything. I was trying to teach her something. We're still cool. It was nothing."
Actually, as her coach, Mike Mohler, and her teammates put it, Williams' willingness to lead means everything to the sixth-ranked Comets (13-2), who burst into the poll two weeks ago after knocking off then-No. 3 Western at the Basketball Academy. Williams posted 15 points to go along with 11 rebounds in the 61-51 win over the Doves.
Williams, who along with senior Jessica Nonn forms one of the best backcourts in the area, needed only to take charge of things on the floor to make herself more valuable.
"I think it's the fact that she's an upperclassman," Nonn said. "She's really understood that her goal is to lead this team. That's what she did this year. She stepped up to lead this team, and she's doing a good job."
Mohler said Williams, who leads the Comets in scoring at 17 points a game and rebounding at 8.1, deferred last year to the three seniors on the Catonsville squad. However, now it's Williams' turn to take control, and her teammates appear to feed off her discipline and work ethic, qualities that will be needed if the Comets are to advance through the state 3A playoffs.
"The great thing about these kids is that they play hard," said Mohler, who has been coaching basketball for more than 35 years. "I haven't had to take a timeout all year and talk about playing hard. I haven't had that in a long time, where you don't take a timeout about effort and desire and hustle."
Of course, having talent doesn't hurt, and Williams, whose game suffered most of last year because of a broken thumb on her left (non-shooting) hand, certainly displayed hers Wednesday night. In the fourth quarter, the Millers, a scrappy and undersized but well-coached bunch, erased an 11-point third-quarter deficit, tying the score with 1:17 to go on Erica Harrigan's free throw.
However, Williams hit two free throws in the final minute and scored six of Catonsville's last eight points, including two on a gorgeous end-to-end drive that concluded with a scoop layup that drew "oohs" from the hostile audience.
Afterward, Mohler had the look, the one that must get issued to high school basketball coaches, along with a whistle and the dry-erase board. It's the look that comes after a team has turned the ball over too many times or missed a few too many free throws down the stretch but still managed to come out with a win.
That look is often followed by a sigh of relief from having a player like Shamika Williams, who not only plays well, but also sets a great example.
"To go back to Reggie Jackson, she's the straw that stirs our drink," Mohler said. "Without Shamika, there's no us. She's still a high school junior, and she's still going to make high school junior mistakes. But her athleticism is phenomenal. She's a great kid, first of all, and kind of our savior."