Opposing teams are doing just about anything in an effort to slow down Branson High School sensation Priscilla Williams.
On Thursday night, Lebanon chose to get physical with the 6-foot-2 sophomore.
The Yellowjackets sent player after player at Williams, spending some hard fouls on the defensive effort against the highly touted transfer from Houston, Texas.
Like everything else this season, it didn’t work.
Williams collected her fifth 30-plus point game in as many outings, scoring 31 points in Branson’s 60-53 victory. The Lady Pirates needed everything they could get against an inspired Lebanon team that was without coach Brendan Kelley, who was out with a health-related absence.
“They came out and played harder than us, especially in the first half,” Branson coach Kip Bough said.
The Lady Pirates trailed 15-10 after one quarter and 31-30 at halftime, despite 17 first-half points from Williams.
“I just told them (at halftime), point-blank, that they are working harder than us,” Bough said. “Lebanon didn’t quit. We got up on them and thought we might be able to put this one away, and we couldn’t close.”
Lauren Garrison scored on a putback of an offensive rebound, then drained a short jumper, to give Branson the lead for good early in the third quarter. Then Williams made a steal and converted it into a layup on the other end while being fouled hard.
She finished the conventional three-point play, and Branson led 40-35. Another Garrison jumper at the end of the quarter made it an eight-point lead.
Lebanon didn’t go away in the fourth quarter, but Branson made enough plays – and just enough free throws – to close out the victory. The highlights in the final quarter included a driving bucket by Gracie Jaeger, then a Williams steal and layup, for a 54-45 lead.
Williams’ 31-point night gave her an average of 34.6 points per game this season. Garrison added 14 points against Lebanon, taking advantage of a Yellowjackets defense that put most of its focus on Williams.
The Yellowjackets played a box-and-one defense for virtually the entire game, with four players in a zone look while their best defender was matched up against Williams one-on-one.
“I think the more the kids see it, the better we’re going to get,” Bough said. “That just becomes a comfort zone, where the other kids become more comfortable, and looking for gaps and looking for holes.
“I think that’s part of the process … we may just be able to scrap our man(-to-man) offense, honestly. I tell our kids, it’s a process and we’re getting better.”
Branson moved up to No. 2 in Class 5 in the latest state rankings by the state’s coaches and mosports.com earlier in the week.
That doesn’t impress Bough, though.
“We probably don’t belong there,” he said. “I honestly have not read anything media on us this year. I’m so consumed with our kids and their improvement. That doesn’t mean anything to me. I have not talked about it.
“I just tell our kids, in every game, we’re not as good as we think we are, and we’re not as bad as we think we are. We’re just progressing, each and every day.”
After visiting Harrison, Arkansas, on Monday night, Branson will play at West Plains on Dec. 19 before the Pink and White Tournament in Springfield from Dec. 27-31.