By Nate Thompson
Due to the freshman game going to triple overtime, and the junior varsity game having an absurd 33 fouls in the first half, the varsity teams didn’t tip off until around 8:30 p.m.
The delay didn’t deter Williams, the Rockets’ 6-foot, fourth-year varsity guard.
After a tight first quarter, Williams caught fire from the field, and Reeths-Puffer followed his lead. Williams connected on four 3-pointers and scored a career-high 29 points in the Rockets’ 75-53 victory.
“I needed to cool down a little bit,” Williams said jokingly. “But I know it’s going to happen some games. My teammates were finding me wide open. And if I’m hitting (jumpers), I know they’re going to be hitting me, and they did that tonight. It was a good win.”
After starting the season 2-3 with tough non-conference losses to Grand Haven, West Ottawa and Grand Rapids Christian, the Rockets have won three in a row and are 5-3 overall. They’re also 2-0 in the O-K Black Conference, with a crucial early-season battle against visiting Muskegon slated for Friday at home.
The Sailors were playing their second straight game without head coach Justin Johnson, who is out with an illness. Led by assistant coaches John Duncan and Doug Burse, they jumped out to a 15-14 lead after one quarter, behind senior Jaylen Hopson’s eight points.
“We tried to throw some (full-court) pressure stuff at them early and they made us pay,” said Reeths-Puffer coach Lance Johnson.
Then Williams, showing off his speed and ability to finish layups through contact, got going for the Rockets, scoring eight points in the second quarter.
R-P led 31-23 at halftime.
Williams opened the second half by connecting on back-to-back corner triples, helping the Rockets surge to a 9-4 run and a 40-27 lead. Reeths-Puffer outscored Mona Shores 26-17 in the third to extend its advantage to 57-40 entering the fourth.
Mona Shores’ turnovers became an ongoing issue, and the Rockets’ depth also was too much for the Sailors. Reeths-Puffer had six players score six or more points, including junior point guard Kaleb Mitchelson with 15, and Gary Humphrey III and Kendall Smith with nine apiece.
Humphrey III recently returned to action following a five-game suspension, and has provided a big boost to the R-P lineup.
“The team’s starting to come together, and I can’t wait for Friday (against Muskegon),” Williams said. “To me, our mindset has got to be, ‘To be the best, we need to beat the best.’ And we live for those type of games.”
Williams hit two 3-pointers in the fourth to break his previous single-game high score of 28, set last season.
Hopson only scored a single point after his hot start and finished with nine. Senior guard Tre Hatcher paced the Sailors with 16 points, while Southland contributed nine.
Mona Shores fell to 1-5 this season.