Jylisa Williams delivered as promised. And it was worth the wait.
Forced to sit out the first half of the OUA basketball season because of eligibility issues, the Georgia native exploded for 39 points in her debut Friday night, leading the Wolves to an 89-60 over Waterloo to open second-half play.
Williams, who spent parts of two seasons playing at Georgia State University before a stint in Alaska in the U.S. military, quickly showed she’s going to be a force to be reckoned with, adding six rebounds and a game-high five steals in the win, the Wolves best offensive output of the season.
No big deal, Williams said.
“I just focused on trying to play team ball and went out there trying to help my team any way I could. There was no way I was trying to be a ball hog in any way. I was just trying to go out there and play,” Williams said.
School officials couldn’t say if the 39 points was a single game LU record, though it’s likely she’d have had a shot at the OUA mark of 49 points had coach Jon Kreiner not lifted her four minutes into the fourth quarter, the Wolves having pushed their lead past 20 at that point.
Williams said she was disappointed the OUA pushed her to the sidelines, forced to watch the sixth-place Thunderwolves struggle to put points on the board and hit the Christmas break at 4-6.
She made the Warriors pay.
“I definitely had a chip on my shoulder. The first half I had a lot of time to sit on the sidelines and watch and see different things I could bring,” she said. “I kind of wanted to show today what I missed the first semester. I was definitely hungry and I tried to do it. I guess I did a little bit.”
She knows they all won’t come this easy, especially after her opening, that saw her score six points in the first quarter, 17 in the second and 12 in the third, most either uncontested lay-ups or short jumpers from just left of the hoop.
The extra attention she’ll get is a good thing.
“I think that’s good for our team. Because the more they pay attention to me, the rest of the team is going to be wide open. So hey, it’s a good thing.”
Kelsey Bardsley was the most obvious recipient of open court space on Friday, dropping five three-pointers for 15 points.
Kreiner couldn’t stop smiling after unleashing his secret weapon on the OUA.
“She’s a wild card, right there. We knew what we had in Jylisa. It took a little while for us to get into some rhythm here tonight, but once we did the people in the Thunderdome got a chance to see what J’s going to bring,” Kreiner said.
“I think she can score, she can attack the basket, but most of all she’s a defender and a leader. She brings a lot of energy to the team and she plays with a lot of will. So we’re really happy to have that.”
Lakehead trailed 14-7 early in the first, but took the lead for good on Bardsley’s second three-pointer of the night and held a 19-18 lead after one. Williams scored a pair of quick baskets to open the second and they pushed their lead to 10 at the half.
The Warriors (2-9) were led by 11 points apiece from Madison Behr and Kristen Osborne. The two teams will tangle again on Saturday night.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for Lakehead, who improved to 5-6 in the OUA West.
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