Understandably, basketball hasn’t been at the front of Chris Williams’ mind for the past two weeks.
Yet a day after the funeral for his son Stephen, Williams was back on the sideline Wednesday, continuing to help his Sunrise Mountain girls basketball team improve.
Williams, whose 22-year-old son died in a car accident in Southampton, Va. on Dec. 21, is teaching his girls lessons more important than just basketball fundamentals, and the Miners are helping him cope.
Both coach and players got a small reason to smile Wednesday when the Miners held on for a 44-37 win over Shadow Ridge in the Gator Winter Classic at Green Valley.
“I’ve had a difficult time focusing; it’s even hard to get out of bed some days.” Williams said. “The living have to keep living. I have seven other kids I have to take care of, and the team needs me. I’m doing everything I can to hold on, and they’re getting me through it. They’re a good group of girls.
“It’s hard. When we do practice or I’m at home on Sunday, it drains me. I just stay in bed all day. Any time is bad, but during the holiday season, it’s really rough.”
In his first year in the program, Williams, who guided Chaparral to a 19-7 record last year, is helping the Miners drastically improve. Sunrise Mountain (5-5) never has come close to a winning record in its short history, and its highest win total came last year in a 7-20 season.
And walking the sideline, giving his players encouragement and attempting to help them correct their mistakes, has been therapeutic.
“This definitely helps me,” Williams said. “The girls understand my commitment to them, as well as my family obligations. I think they came out and played harder for me today than they’ve played in a while, knowing the situation with the funeral being yesterday and it being really rough for me.”
For the first 2½ quarters, the Miners couldn’t have been better on defense, forcing 28 turnovers and building a 36-16 lead over the Mustangs, who rallied late to pull within 42-37 on Amira King’s free throw with 1:11 left.
“They played hard, and they played well,” Williams said. “We had some problems with turnovers and substitutions late in the game, and it put us in a situation we didn’t want to be in. I have to pay a little better attention to that.”
Jasmyn Rodriguez had 13 points for Sunrise Mountain, and Brittany Veal and Jennifer Smith each scored eight. King led the Mustangs (5-3) with 10 points
“It was a good start to the new year,” Williams said.
Contact reporter Bartt Davis at email@example.com or (702) 387-5230.