ALBUQUERQUE — When Clovis’ Danni Williams stepped onto The Pit floor on Saturday, two occasions crept into her mind — one glorious, the other not so much.
First, she thought of how painful last year was when the Wildcats were bounced from the Class 5A girls state basketball tournament by eventual state champion Volcano Vista.
“It made me want to throw up,” she said. “I didn’t want that feeling again. It was probably the worst feeling I’ve ever had.”
That contrasted with one of her fondest memories, when, as a water girl for Clovis in 2005, she watched the Wildcats cap an undefeated 30-0 season with a 61-42 win over Mayfield in the state championship.
“We got to go on the court and see what it was like,” she said. “Since that day when they won it, I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. This is my biggest dream.’”
Dream no more. The Wildcats (30-2) punctuated their 2012-13 campaign with a blue trophy in a 62-48 win over the Trojans with the sophomore Williams, per usual, playing a critical role. She hit a clutch, fourth-quarter 3-pointer that squelched a Trojans’ blitz.
Mayfield sliced a double-digit lead to eight when Williams cocked back and let it fly, much to Clovis head coach Jeff Reed’s dismay.
Immediately, Williams thought, “I just hope this goes in.”
“Me too,” Reed said to Williams in the championship media session, “because I was about to get on you. I was like, ‘We don’t need to shoot that right now.’ But when you made it, I couldn’t say anything to you.”
Mayfield head coach George Maya conceded that 3-pointer deflated his team, which looked on the cusp of galvanizing.
“We gotta see her for two more years,” Maya said. “Sometimes we could stop her, and sometimes she got away from us.”
Williams has slipped through most teams’ grasp this year, while averaging 20 points, four assists and three steals per game. The sophomore finished the Saturday title tilt with 22 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
Williams started off chilly in the game’s opening minutes and was just 1-of-5 from the field after one quarter. But she was a blistering 4-of-6 in the second quarter to stake the Wildcats to a 34-27 halftime edge.
A lot of shooters struggle to adjust to The Pit’s unforgiving rims, and seeing shots rattle out can decimate their psyche and confidence. Rather than clam up, or shrink from stage fright, Williams never let her early misfortunes affect her.
It went back to firsthand experience. She attended the University of New Mexico’s elite summer camp and knew she'd eventually acclimate to the iron and surroundings. After all, Williams grew up around basketball. Her father played at Texico and went on to play in college.
“(I’ve been playing) ever since I was old enough to pick up a ball,” Williams said. “My mom worked night shifts, so my dad would take me to practice in a little stroller. He would let me get in and practice in there with (older) players.”
Those formative years groomed Williams to have poise unbecoming a sophomore.
“When you come down here, it’s like they’re not as fast, they’re not as strong,” Williams said. “It helped a lot.”
Now that she’s realized her dream at such an impressionable age, what’s left for her to accomplish?
Hopefully, Williams said, she can lead Clovis to a few more championships before heading to college.
“When people talk and say, ‘Oh, you’re so good,’ I think about it, but then I move on because if we wouldn’t have won, no one would have said anything,” she said. “They would have been all talking about Mayfield. So I just want to go out there and prove myself to people.
“If we happen to come here again, I’ll know the feeling. And I think I’ll remember it.”