COLUMBIA — Three years ago, a timid Rock Bridge freshman started her first varsity game in the home opener of the season and lost to Liberty.
Saturday, confident senior Amaya Williams led her team to victory.
The Bruins defeated visiting Liberty 41-37. “It’s the clutch moments she really comes through,” said Bev Peterson, Williams’ mother.
In the second half, free throws ended up being the key to winning the game, and Williams sunk 13 of her 14 free throws. Williams went to the line twice within the last minute of the game, earning the final points of the win.
“We’re good at being resilient and coming back,” said coach Jill Nagel. “We’ve had a bad first quarter before, but we come back hard and score the next (quarter). We did a good job picking it up on defense and shooting, even if we weren’t scoring.”
Williams led the team in free throws, with 13 of her 17 points coming from the free-throw line.
At halftime, she was also nominated for the McDonald’s All-American team, which is an honor Williams takes to heart.
“I volunteer with the Ronald McDonald charities one Wednesday each month,” Williams said.
Wiliams is also a member of the National Honors Society, Rock Bridge Reaches Out, and serves as the student council secretary.
“She is the epitome of a student athlete,” Nagel said. “She leads by example, and this year, as a senior, she’s been more vocal with her team. She has strong academics. She really walks the talk.”
Basketball has played an integral role in Williams’ life. What started as Pee Wee hoops in kindergarten continued to the high school varsity team for 4 years as shooting guard 13 years later.
“It’s been a big part of my life. It’s hard work but I enjoy doing it. It keeps me focused.”
She played on a summer travel team for Mid America Youth Basketball and traveled to Oklahoma City for nationals, where her team of 7 years took third place overall.
“My older brother and dad played, and I was really into sports as a little kid,” Williams said. She discovered her true passion for basketball when she had to decide which sports to pursue in high school.
“Playing three sports when you’re older is too much, and basketball was my favorite. I played basketball and softball until seventh grade, but basketball was more my sport.”
Williams accomplishments on the court include being named All-District and second team All-State since her sophomore year. She also scored her 1,000 point at the Shawnee Mission game on Jan. 23, putting her at more than 1,030 points after Saturday.
“Basketball has been a big part of my life," Williams said. "It’s hard work but I enjoy doing it. It keeps me focused.”
Williams has committed to Truman State, where she will continue her basketball career.