Reno, the defending state champion, suffered it first defeat of the season and fell to 6-1, 2-1 in league games. Reed improved to 1-1 overall, 1-1 in league meetings.
“I could tell she (Williams) was excited to get out there,” Reed coach Sara Schopper-Ramirez said. “Sometimes she was doing a little too much but overall I was pleased. She wasn’t hesitant at all. She was going after it.”
Williams, who is taking her talents to UConn next year (the current No. 1 college women’s basketball team in the country), finished with a game-high 24 points.
“I honestly didn’t know what was going to happen,” Williams said of her pregame mindset. “I was like maybe I’ll have 40, maybe I won’t score at all. But as long as I play and just show everybody, ‘look who’s back.’”
Williams’ most dominant effort of the night, however, may have come on the defensive side of the court. Led by super sophomore Mallory McGwire (14 points), Reno trailed 31-25 at the half after trailing by as much as 12 in the first quarter.
Schopper-Ramirez put Williams on McGwire after halftime and held the six-foot-four-inch post to two second-half points.
“Gabby is just a hard person to go up against because sometimes she doesn’t have to box out. She can just jump up there and grab the ball,” Schopper-Ramirez said. “When other people see (Williams down low) they question whether to throw it, so it was just a switch in defense putting Gabby back there in the zone and settling them down a little bit, not letting them have it inside like they were a little bit that first half.”
Reed never trailed Thursday night and led by as much as 10 in the fourth quarter, but it saw its lead shrink to within a single possession for the first time in the second half, with a minute left, after a pair of Alyson Rippingham (15 points) free throws.
Trailing 50-47 with the ball and 9.7 seconds left, Reno tried to get to the ball to McGwire but Nakiyah LeSure jumped in front of the entry pass and sealed the win with a steal.
Schopper-Ramirez said she did not consider fouling to prevent a 3-point shot at that time because “Reno High is a good free-throw shooting team.”
Tyler Sumpter finished with 16 points for the Raiders, including six of the team’s 10 points in the fourth quarter. Her 15-footer in the middle of the fourth quarter put Reed up 48-38, matching the Raiders' largest lead of the second half.
In her first game back from last season’s devastating knee injury, Williams admitted she was nervous before the game but the butterflies disappeared quickly.
“I’m not going to try to act cool and say I wasn’t (nervous), I definitely was,” Williams said. “Especially this being the last court I played on against the last team I played, it shook me up a little bit. Those first couple plays I was literally shaking. But once I got bumped a little bit I was fine. I found out I can get hit. I can take those hits and I can recover from it.”
After Thursday’s win over the Nevada state power, the Raiders have a quick turnaround before hosting Hug Friday at 5:15 p.m.
“It (the win) just says ‘hey, we’re back,’” Schopper-Ramirez said. “We kind of went out last year (loss in North semifinals) but Gabby is back and Reed is back.”