State champion Keith opens basketball practice

Published 10:19 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Keith’s Ambreya Snow shoots a ball during one of the Bears’ first practices of the season. Keith opens the season Nov. 13 against Selma.--Justin Fedich

Keith’s Ambreya Snow shoots a ball during one of the Bears’ first practices of the season. Keith opens the season Nov. 13 against Selma.–Justin Fedich

By Justin Fedich | The Selma Times-Journal

Coming off a class 1A state championship victory, Keith girls’ basketball head coach Cecil Williams has no reason to believe this team isn’t better than last year’s team.

When Keith started practice this week, the Bears’ roster didn’t look much different than it did in February when the team hoisted its third state championship trophy in school history. The team lost only two seniors and has gained a player, but the top two contributors from last year are back for their senior season.

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Harriet Winchester and Zykia Pettway led the way on the title run last season, and Williams said he is glad they didn’t wait until their senior year to play their best basketball. He’s looking forward to what his team can accomplish this season, but Williams is also keeping his team humble.

“You can be beat at any time,” Williams said to his players during their first practice. “Last year was last year. That season is in the books. If you’re trying to go for another one, you’ve got to start over.”

Williams said he has seen growth from his players since their state championship victory. One of the biggest changes he’s noticed is how the players are communicating more with each other.

Williams said the team is playing together well, which hasn’t been hard because many of them have played together since seventh grade.

During practice Tuesday, Williams spent much of the time coaching the junior varsity team while Winchester coached varsity newcomer Erica Smiley and the rest of the team through drills.

“They’re understanding each other’s game styles and they’re trusting in their teammates too,” Williams said. “And the communication, they’re talking together and that’s a big thing that’s helping out.”

Williams said he thinks about repeating as champions, but he’s not concerned with the pressure that will bring to his team. If his players can win handling the pressure of winning a state title, he feels confident, but not overconfident, that his team can handle the pressure that comes with being defending state champions.

“I’m not worried about the pressure,” Williams said. “I’m more worried about them maintaining the focus of not getting confident thinking that they can’t be beat.”

While Keith’s defense won the Bears a state title in February, Williams said his team’s strength lies on both sides of the ball.

“We’re pretty balanced,” Williams said. “Our strength is both ways, offensively and defensively, because we can score. Any of our players can score at any time, and defensively, we all play that pretty well.”

As well-rounded as Keith may be now, the Bears have a little over three weeks to get even better. Keith plays its first game Nov. 13 at Selma.