The Lady Falcons basketball team already has won more games this season than they did all of last season, and when you look for reasons for the improvement, one reason seems to be defense. For instance, Saint Augustine’s University forced 40 turnovers to rally from a first-half deficit in a 74-62 victory Nov. 18 against nationally ranked Benedict College.
The turnovers were the most by a Lady Falcon’s opponent since 2011 when the University of Virginia-Lynchburg committed 43. The Lady Falcons held a 39-16 scoring advantage in turnover points to rally from a first-half deficit and swing the game their way, cruising to a 74-62 victory.
But another stat from that game showed a less obvious facet of the Lady Falcons’ success: Kaaliya Williams was 2 for 2 from the foul line. It was the continuation of a hot streak that has put Williams among the leaders in free throw percentage in the nation.
As of the Benedict game, Williams was perfect from the free throw line – 27 for 27. The 19 free throws the team swished were more than enough to secure the victory.
Williams was also the high scorer for Saint Augustine’s in that game, with 14 points. It was a good example of why the sophomore forward from Richmond, VA, won a place on the 2016-2017 CIAA All-Rookie Basketball Team along with the MVP award for the Falcons for her first year of college.
Her success is surprising – even to Williams herself – considering that she did not even see herself playing basketball as a child. At a young age, Williams wanted to be a cheerleader, but luckily her dad pushed her to play basketball. She ended up loving the sport so much that she quickly forgot about cheerleading and never played anything else outside of basketball.
Williams said she grew up somewhat a “girly girl”, and even though she eventually lost her desire to be a cheerleader, she recognizes her mom for making sure she remained feminine. She tells how her mom packed her bags for all her away games and trips while making sure she had everything she needed for her games like pink knee pads, colored socks and hair products and accessories. One thing that impacted Williams the most was the fact that her mother made sure after every game she wore her hoop earrings.
The parental guidance in her childhood played a major role for not only the basketball player she is today, but more importantly the woman she has become. When asked how did she accomplish this great recognition her freshman year, Williams replied, “Coming in as a freshman I was very passive, but my teammates encouraged me through out the year. I always knew I could play, but it was my coach along with my teammates who really brought the best out of me.”
Williams added, “It feels good to know that even though most of my teammates were older than me, they still believed in me. I had the support of my friends, my family, and my community.”
One of their team captains, Williams is trying to set a tone that already is paying off for the Lady. While she has ample abilities on the offensive end, Williams said she is focusing on being more defensively minded and grabbing as many rebounds as she can.
And they are also paying attention to little details like free throws. “The community can expect a much better season from us this year,” Williams said.
— Kelsee Arnold