MARYLAND HEIGHTS • Hazelwood Central senior Kelsie Williams said she was fully aware of the gravity of her team's situation Thursday.
With Hawks freshman point guard Nariyah Simmons fouling out and senior guard Kourtney White hampered with four fouls late, Williams became the Hawks' Swiss Army knife as she helped Central pull out a 51-50 win to stave off an upset bid by host Pattonville.
Williams scored four points in the final minute and came up with a key block on Pattonville senior guard Tyra Brown on a late 3-point attempt that would have given the Pirates the lead. She even brought the ball up the floor on occasion and drained a 3-pointer to get her night going in the second quarter.
“I feel like there are times when my team needs me to be successful and my defense often jump-starts my offense,” Williams said. “This was a game we needed for several reasons. We're in the same district as them and this helps with seeds. Also, winning a close game can only pay off down the road when we could be in close playoff games.”
Both teams will play in the Class 5 District 2 tournament next month at McCluer North.
In winning its 13th consecutive game, Central (17-6, No. 6 in the STLhighschoolsports.com large-schools rankings) had to fend off a late charge from Pattonville (10-7).
Williams scored seven of her team-high 12 points in the second half as the Hawks watched a double-digit halftime lead shrink to one possession on a handful of occasions.
In addition to the points, Williams jumped out at Brown and got a piece of what looked an open 3-point look with 9.1 seconds to play and Central leading by two points.
A pair of White free throws made a Brown 3-pointer at the buzzer irrelevant.
Central coach Chantell Polk said her team's seniors did just what she expects of them with a game on the line.
“I'm very lucky to have these seniors their last year,” said Polk of Williams and White. “They do a lot for me. Kelsie is a powerhouse out there — she can go high, she can go low.”
While the Central seniors came through in the end, Pattonville — behind Brown, who scored a game-high 18 points — more than made a game of it.
As good as the comeback was, Pattonville coach Doug McGhee lamented a couple of things that hurt, including a 14-of-28 showing at the free-throw line.
“You miss 14 free throws, and you're not doing yourself any favors,” McGhee said. “We also gave up a lot on the offensive glass in the first half that hurt us. We made adjustments and there are things we can take away from this, but we had a chance in the end.”
After Williams' effort, Central got 11 points from Simmons and 10 from sophomore Jakayla Kirk.
“Nariyah is a great good player and one of the best teammates I've ever played with in my career,” White said. “She really helps this team a lot and it did (hurt when she fouled out late in the fourth quarter).”
In terms of tests like the one passed Thursday, things don't figure to get easier for Central.
Both MICDS and Parkway North come calling to Central with games Monday and Wednesday.
“I think the same about those games that I do about any others,” Polk said. “I think that any given day, anybody can be beat.”