The fall that left Williams sidelined for the game has ended up sidelining her for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. With one of the best talents left cheering instead of dazzling on the hardwood, the Raiders were left with a huge void to fill.
“When we lost her, we weren’t just losing a player,” Reed junior forward Tina Vernon said. “We also lost that leadership that was on the court. Since then, we’ve really had to come together and get it together as a team. Everyone works hard and tries to do what is best for the team. We’ve come together as a unit.”
The immediate question that faced the Lady Raiders was how they would replace the role that Williams played as the spark plug for both the offense and defense. Instead of one player trying to step into Williams’ shoes though, it has been a collective effort for Reed.
“When it first happened, I panicked for a little bit, but after that everyone came together as a team,” Reed junior guard Brooke Cervantes said. “We’ve really started working together. We’re not relying so much on one player now. It’s a lot harder, but we’re also a lot more serious. If we work at it and do our jobs together, we’ll be fine. I think we can still win.”
When the Raiders lost Williams, they also lost her 24.3 points per game, as well as her end-to-end defensive presence. With Williams accounting for 33.8 percent of Reed’s points through its first nine High Desert League contests, the Raiders averaged 72 points a game while holding opponents to 38. Although the offensive numbers have dwindled for Reed since the Reno game, with the Raiders averaging 56.7 points a contest, the defensive numbers are close to the same with teams scoring 37.3 points on average against the Raiders. However, the largest area of growth for RHS has been learning how to win without its leader.
“Honestly, I think the biggest improvement we’ve made is just winning,” Vernon said. “People thought that Reed High School was Gabby with a team behind her, but now people see what we’re capable of without Gabby. We may not blow teams out, but we do earn our wins.”
From the time Williams suffered her injury, the Raiders have won five of six games en route to the HDL’s No. 2 seed. Now with the playoffs set to open on Wednesday, the biggest test for Reed awaits as it tries to defend its state crown.
“They’re all good players. They just need the confidence and so hopefully that light bulb has gone off that they can do this,” Reed girls basketball coach Sara Schopper-Ramirez said. “They’ve shown that they can do this. I think we’re going to surprise people because I think people will count us out. We have gamers on the floor. I think we’re right there. I’m hoping they find that fire inside. Obviously the game plan has changed, but we still have the same goal.”
With the Sierra League’s No. 3 seed Douglas presenting Reed its first postseason obstacle, the Raiders are ready to yet again prove themselves.
“I think that we’ve shown that we can still win without Gabby, but it’s tougher,” Reed junior guard Tyler Sumpter said. “We can still win without her. I think that’s proving teams shouldn’t take us for granted without her because we’re not out of the running.”