By ROB WITHAM
It has, even this early in the season, become a constant that Kelly Williams of Randolph-Macon women’s basketball will post a double-double for the Yellow Jackets.
In six games, Williams has been in double figures in both points and rebounds every time out. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t facing a wide variety of attempts by opposing defenses to slow her down and force other teammates to pick up the slack.
In fact, in their Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) opener against Washington and Lee last Tuesday night at Crenshaw Gymnasium, it was clear from the Yellow Jackets’ first possession that the Generals would collapse as many players as possible around Williams in an attempt to frustrate her, cause some offensive fouls, and force other players to step up.
Charlotte Woods was more than happy to answer the invitation.
Woods scored 12 of her 16 points in the first half, pulled down 13 rebounds for a double-double of her own, and forced the Generals defense to respect her, opening the way for Williams to score 27 points and grab 17 rebounds as Randolph-Macon held off a late Washington and Lee push for a 76-69 victory. Add in a six-point, eleven-rebound performance Saturday in a 101-45 triumph over Mid-Atlantic Christian, and Woods is beginning to provide a one-two punch with Williams in the paint, music to the ears of Yellow Jacket fans and head coach Carroll LaHaye.
“She’s a hustler. Her work ethic is out of this world. She wants to help this team and be successful,” LaHaye explained. “She’s doing everything she possibly can to help this team be successful.”
LaHaye remembered during her recruitment of Woods from Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond that she was “over the top athletic”. The challenge was to take that raw athleticism and turn it into a cumulative basketball IQ that translates to production on the court. The difference between Woods so far this season and her limited play her freshman season, is night and day.
“I told her at the beginning of the season the offense we’re running is designed for post players,” LaHaye recalled, challenging Woods to take her game to the next level.
“Practice helps, understanding each other, getting a feel for each other,” Woods says of how she’s been able to improve her game. “The coaches help me with my skill personally. I saw openings (tonight), and I took advantage of it.”
With a 16-15 lead after a quarter, the Yellow Jackets built a small lead, only to see Washington and Lee hang around. Randolph-Macon missed their last five field goal attempts of the first half, allowing the Generals to trail just by five, 31-26, at intermission.
The third period saw Randolph-Macon constantly work to pull away, and when Jayla Wade nailed a trey with 5:45 left, the lead was ten at 42-32. The Yellow Jackets took a 56-44 lead to the final period, and Kelsey Wisner scored right out of the gate, then Wade hit a pair of free throws to give Randolph-Macon a 60-44 lead.
The game seemed over, but the Generals weren’t done, electing to eschew their usual offense and adopt a mentality of get the ball down the court and get off shots as soon as possible. When they began to fall, LaHaye realized some defensive adjustments were necessary as the seemingly insurmountable lead began to shrink to an uncomfortable level.
To finish off an opponents’ comeback attempt, it’s critical to hit your free throws. The Yellow Jackets hit 11 of 17 at the line in the fourth period, enough missed opportunities to keep the door ajar for the Generals. Wade was key, hitting all four of her shots. With three minutes left, the lead was thirteen. When Erin Hughes nailed a frantic three-pointer with 24 seconds left, it was down to four at 73-69.
Elise Knobloch hit one of two free throws, then, after Knobloch grabbed a rebound off a missed three-point attempt by Katie Popp, Teal Reynolds nailed a pair of free throws to finally seal the win. Wade finished with twelve points, Wisner had nine and Reynolds added six.
The Yellow Jackets improved their free throw percentage to 70 percent (14-of-20) in the Saturday win over Mid-Atlantic Christian, as well as their three-point shooting, nailing seven of sixteen attempts as Randolph-Macon jumped out to a 27-7 lead and was never seriously challenged. Williams’ production was 31 points and 22 rebounds.
Williams is now averaging 26.8 points and 21 rebounds per game after six contests. Williams, a sophomore, ranks fourth in the nation in Division III in scoring, and leads the nation in rebounding.
After exams, the Yellow Jackets embark on a trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a pair of games, facing Lawrence College December 17th and Lycoming on the 18th. Randolph-Macon returns to Crenshaw Saturday December 30th for a non-conference affair with Johns Hopkins before returning to ODAC play at Shenandoah on January 2nd.