By Aishwarya Kumar Lakshminarayanapuram
It was a pleasant surprise to coach Corry Irvin to see the usually somber 6-foot-1 junior forward Danyelle Williams excited and perky on the court. Her high-fives and loud cheering energized Whitney Young in a 61-51 victory against North Lawndale College Prep Thursday.
The curly-haired Williams, who usually is more laidback, stepped up her game in the first half, scoring six two-pointers in an otherwise slow game. She made use of her height, creating space and taking calculated risks in driving to the basket.
“I realized that I have to pep up and play with more confidence now that we are in the second half of the season and doing that has made me a bigger part of the team today,” Williams said.
Williams, who is the daughter of former NBA player Aaron Williams, caught the attention of the opponent coach Corey Morgan who clapped at her effort. Teammate and point guard Kiara Lewis called Williams’ game “one of her best” so far and added that she attacked more, which was what the team needed going forward in the season.
“[Williams] looked to get to the basket, she looked to get open and that is something she has been working on lately and it was good to see her play to her potential,” said Irvin.
Apart from a few moments in the second-half, when North Lawndale closed the gap by scoring two three-pointers, the Dolphins dominated, maintaining a steady lead of over six points throughout, thanks to their clean passes, free throws and rebounds.
The team converted 85 percent of its free throws, one of the very few times that has happened. The team scored 18 out of the 21 free throws attempted.
“That was one thing we have been working on extensively for about an hour at practice everyday, and I am happy about that,” Irvin said.
Lewis stepped up in the second half and she attacked the gaps, feinted passes and didn’t hesitate to get to the basket. With 19 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist, the star point guard of the team was the happiest about her free throw percentage in the game.
“I think I missed only one free throw out of the 12 today,” Lewis said smiling and added that she had been working it for hours over the last few days and was excited that it paid off.
Despite better performance in the defense department, the team struggled to score off of offense and missed layups, resulting in Whitney Young holding a sluggish 22-14 lead at the half. At the end of the third quarter, the game picked up pace with Lewis pulling off a steal and laying it up with 10 seconds left on the clock.
Irvin said that her team’s rotation was not perfect. Though the Dolphins has been practicing since their defeat against Montini High School, an undefeated team in the conference so far during the Christmas tournament, they were taking time in executing it.
North Lawndale’s Morgan acknowledged that his team lacked the energy that was needed to capitalize on Whitney Young’s lackluster performance in the first-half.
Calling the Young’s free throws “perfect,” Morgan said, “They executed their shots well and scored when it counted.”
With a 13-4 record, Whitney Young will head to Nashville for this season’s Music City Classics Sunday.