Keith head coach Cecil Williams talks to his team during a timeout in the Class 1A final in Birmingham this past season. -- File Photo
Keith head coach Cecil Williams talks to his team during a timeout in the Class 1A final in Birmingham this past season. -- File Photo

STJ Coach of the Year: Keith’s Williams committed to success

Published 4:30pm Saturday, March 30, 2013

After guiding the Lady Bears to a 31-4 season that included an area and regional championship on their way to a state title game appearance, Cecil Williams is the coach of the year.

Williams helped lead the Lady Bears to an appearance in the Class 1A state championship game, claiming a second-straight area championship and a Central Regional championship in the process during his fourth season as Lady Bears head coach.

But Williams said getting to that point wasn’t easy, and it was a rough start when he took over in 2009.

However, with hard work and dedication, the Lady Bears saw a positive change.

“My first year was real rough. I honestly got to the point where I had somewhat given up because of the attitude and the effort that they were giving,” Williams said, “but I had to realize that all of that came from me. In order for my team to get better, I had to change my attitude about everything. So I kind of dedicated myself to working harder, and if I worked harder, then I knew that it’d rub off on the girls on what I’m trying to instill in them, and that’s basically working hard over the summer and the time we had during the school year to get better.”

And after a 3-16 finish in Williams’ first season and an 8-16 record in his second year, the Lady Bears saw a quick turnaround in season three, going 21-6 and finishing in the Central Regional Tournament in Montgomery.

Williams said the team saw a great boost in confidence this season compared to the turnaround season the year before, as they entered the 2013 Central Regional on a mission that led them to the Class 1A state final four in Birmingham.

“I could tell that they had gained a lot of confidence over the summer. From losing at Alabama State last year, coming out nervous, scared, a lot of them were crying because they had never been in that atmosphere, that situation before,” Williams said. “That was a great learning experience because that brought us back to play harder, and it showed. First game in the regional this season, we played well. Second game, we were down the whole game and they never dropped their heads. They continued to play hard, we fought back and won it and we took it on to Birmingham. That’s the attitude, the perseverance and not having it in them to quit, that’s one thing that we really worked on, not giving up. And it showed a lot this year.”

And while they lose a key senior in center Lyteisha Phillips, the Lady Bears return everyone else from this season’s team, which could likely result in more trips to Birmingham for Williams and Keith.

“We’re losing one senior who’s been with us for a while. She was a big part of the offense because being in 1A, it’s hard to have that type of size, her being about 6’1, 6’2,” Williams said. “We have everybody coming back except her. I have a couple younger girls we’re developing and working on skills with, and plus we’ll have my other forward back that’s recovering from ACL surgery. We’ll be coming back next year pretty strong, with a couple that we’re adding, and hopefully developing the skills of the ones we already have.”

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