Coeur d’Alene senior basketball standout Sydney Williams has done everything but win a state championship.
So one can imagine what’s chief on her to-do list this season.
“It’s disappointing, because before this year I’ve wanted to win one for the seniors each time,” Williams said. “Now I’m a senior.”
She’s playing with a sense of urgency.
As a part-time starter as a freshman, Williams’ team lost to 5A Inland Empire League rival Lewiston in the title game.
The following year, CdA stubbed its toe in the semifinals, falling to Centennial 58-56. To this day, Williams believes her team was measurably better than Centennial.
Then last year, CdA lost to Post Falls in overtime in the final.
“That was devastating,” Williams said.
The 6-foot-1 Williams is her own worst critic. She looks back on losses – especially those at state – and wonders what she could have done better to avoid defeat.
“When you lose you think, ‘Oh, it’s my fault.’ I’m really hard on myself,” she said. “I’m always thinking about what I could have done better.”
In other words, the finger pointing at her is, well, her.
“After a game my parents will tell me I played well, but in fact I know I could have played better,” Williams said. “I overanalyze things.”
The Vikings find themselves in a hole in league play. They lost to Lewiston, which scored a big road win, 49-46 in mid-December.
Williams got into foul trouble, spending the final 5 minutes of the first half on the bench. She hit her season average with 16 points (she’s averaging 16.7), but the Vikings made just 8 of 20 free throws and were outrebounded.
“We overlooked Lewiston,” Williams said. “The practices after the Lewiston game were really, really hard.”
That’s hard to imagine, since the Vikings do nonstop running and scrimmaging for 3 hours at each practice.
Williams is flourishing this season. In addition to her team-leading scoring average, she’s pulling down 5.7 rebounds per game and averaging about two assists. She’s shooting 41.4 percent from 3-point range and 50 percent overall.
Of all her skills, shooting is one of her best. Her biggest improvement in high school is ball handling.
It’s the area of most importance to her. Williams, who has signed with the University of San Diego, said she expects to be used quite a bit in the Toreros’ system on the perimeter.
“She works on her game a lot,” CdA coach Dale Poffenroth said. “She’s really improved in her ability to catch the basketball and handle the ball.”
She runs the floor like a guard, not a post. She has good hands, good feet and is versatile.
Williams is arguably the best post in Idaho and likely in the region, meaning she draws a crowd in games.
“Nobody can defend Syd with one player,” said her club coach, Ron Adams.
It’s no wonder that Williams is a good student of the game. After all, she’s a good student, period. She ranks 15th in her class with a 4.183 weighted grade-point average.
She’s likely to get her first B when the first semester ends later this month. It’ll come in a college level course – advanced placement calculus.
“I’ve got two tests left and even if I ace them I’ll probably get a B-plus,” Williams said. “It’s a really tough class.”
One of the biggest contributions Williams makes to her team isn’t athletic. It’s leadership.
“She understands the dynamic of a team,” Poffenroth said.
“One of her best qualities is team chemistry,” she said. “She unites players. Coaches can’t do that.”
Before games, the players gather for a brief huddle in the locker room. If Williams senses her team is stressed, she’ll crack a joke.
“I try to keep everybody loose,” she said.
Williams knows the task before CdA. If the Vikings want to have homecourt advantage in the postseason, they must do something they haven’t done since the 2008-09 season – win at Lewiston in the second half of league (Jan. 24).
“We’re not going to overlook them this time,” Williams said.
Williams wants to change the seniors’ track record at state, too.
“We’ve seen the looks on the seniors’ faces the last few years when we haven’t won a state title,” Williams said. “That’s fueling our fire this year. We want to win, have a (special) assembly and hang a banner in the gym. I’m very confident we can win a state title, because of all the hard work we’ve put in.”
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