Travon Williams and his University City boys’ basketball team had practice last week. That, in and of itself, is a statement. If you were a Class 4 or 5 school and had practice last week, you did something special— you won a district championship.
The hardware was handed out last Friday and Saturday, and all but 32 teams in the largest Missouri classifications had no reason to practice, no reason to pull on a jersey. They were done. Done for the year. Done until next November. Done for the duration.
Williams and the Lions weren’t done. And it’s only because of Williams’ flair for the dramatic.
Trailing Westminster 72-70 with 5.9 seconds remaining in the Class 4 District 6 title game last Friday night at MICDS, the 6-foot-2, 170-pound Williams raced the length of the court, got to the right wing, pulled up in front two Westminster defenders and let his jump shot go just before the buzzer sounded.
The ball tickled every fiber of the twine as it swished through, giving U. City the 73-72 win and sending the Lions and their faithful fans into a full-on celebration that erupted from the stands and chased Williams all the way down to the other end of the court.
It’s the first district title for U. City since 1986—which means for the first time since 1986, U. City had practice this late in the winter. Williams couldn’t wait to get to practice. Heck, what else was he going to do? He had a hard time falling asleep after lifting the Lions to the thrilling victory. “When I got home I watched the video at least 50 times,” Williams, 17, says. “I stayed up until I couldn’t stay up any more. Coach (David Gammon) said he couldn’t sleep either.”
Most opponents have a hard time sleeping when they know the Lions and Williams are on the docket. The reigning Suburban South Conference Player of the Year, Williams led the Lions with 20 points, four rebounds and two steals per game. Last year, he was even more lethal as he averaged 20 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
Though his numbers aren’t as glossy this time around, Williams is OK with that. U. City, 19-8, has found a winning stride. The Lions had won seven of their last 10 games and are playing their best basketball at the right time of the year. Williams says that near the end of the season the Lions held a team meeting where he said he’d happily sacrifice his own numbers so the team could win. “I just want to play defense and stop the other team,” Williams says.
The ‘other team’ on the slate is none other than top-ranked small school Soldan. That game was scheduled for this past Wednesday at Parkway West. The winner earned a few more days of practice and a date in the quarterfinal round Saturday at Francis Howell Central.
Williams believed wholeheartedly U. City would emerge victorious. The Lions are one of three local teams to beat Soldan over the last three years. The other two are Maplewood-Richmond Heights and McCluer. U. City knocked the Tigers off in last year’s Borgia Tournament.
As of Sunday, he was itching to get on the court and let the games begin. “We’ve been waiting to play this game for a long time,” Williams says. He just had to get through a few more days of practice.