Williams comes up big for Bunnies
DANVILLE — Wade Williams was waiting for a chance. The game was waiting for a hero.
The two paths intersected Friday night, midway through the fourth quarter of a Class 1A sectional championship boys' basketball game watched by 900 spectators at Schlarman's Shebby Gymnasium.
Williams, a junior at Fisher High School, had a front-row seat for the first three quarters. When three teammates each picked up their fourth fouls with more than five minutes left, coach Ron Ragle summoned the 6-foot-2 Williams for the first time.
"I could never have imagined I would get those minutes at that time," Williams said.
Fisher held a seven-point lead on Arthur High School when Williams entered. By the time he finished a five-point scoring flurry in a 45-second span, the Bunnies held a double-figure lead and went on to beat Arthur 43-31.
"Wade played huge," Ragle said, "but he has been doing that all year."
Dylan Chapman, one of two Fisher players to score in double figures, wasn't surprised by the play of Williams, who sunk 3 of 4 free throws and scored on a putback after rebounding a teammate's missed free throw.
"He's one of the best shooters on the team," Chapman said. "He can make free throws in the clutch. It's nice to know we have backups."
Williams downplayed his role.
"I just want to do what I can for my team," he said. "I was in the right place at the right time."
In the first quarter it looked like Williams might play in a mop-up role. Fisher (17-14) scored the first 15 points, starting with Parker Perrero's three-pointer 13 seconds into the game.
When teammate Chapman opened the second-quarter scoring at the 7:32 mark, the Bunnies' lead had risen to 20-2.
"We came out hot and got them down," Ragle said, "but they kept battling."
Arthur pulled within seven points at halftime (26-19) thanks to back-to-back baskets by Andrew Maxwell in the final 70 seconds of the second period.
Fisher survived an eight-turnover, two-point third quarter by holding the Knights to a pair of free throws by Clayton Honn.
Had Arthur shot better than 25.7 percent (9 of 35) overall, the outcome could have been different.
"Defensively, we played well enough to win," Arthur coach Dale Schuring said. "We competed hard. The kids hung it on the line. We hang our hats on defense, but if we don't score, we'll lose. We didn't make shots all night."
Thanks to Williams, the team that took the lead first never trailed. The sectional title is the second for Fisher in five years.
"Every day in P.E., we look at the banner in the gym for the '08 team and want to be like those guys," Williams said. "Now we are."
The Bunnies are one win from a state trophy and face Illini Central (16-12) in a Tuesday night super-sectional game (7:30) at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena.
"We're up there, not only with the elite schools in Illinois but also with the best from our school," Chapman said.
Ragle called the advancement "overwhelming," adding, "I'm elated right now. It's a proud moment for our community and for our school. It's special to all of Fisher."
Taw Fredrickson scored a game-high 12 points for Fisher. Chapman had 10 to go with a game-high nine rebounds. Williams and another non-starter, Tate Estes, each added five points.
Boyd Estes jump-started the first-quarter getaway with four steals.
Maxwell led Arthur (19-12) with nine points. Honn scored eight, and Caleb Schrock handled a team-high seven rebounds.
With a starting lineup of all underclassmen, including three sophomores, someone mentioned to Schuring that the Knights' best days may be in the future.
"I hope so," he said, "but I told the kids, these chances don't come along too often and even though they're young, we're not promised anything. They have to work in the offseason to get back."
During the final 27 minutes of the sectional finals, Arthur held a three-point scoring edge, but Chapman said the victory was the important point to celebrate.
"We laid off a little bit," he said. "We didn't step on their throats, but we held them off. This is complete excitement."