Williams' Oak Mountain Academy boys' basketball team will open up the GISA Region 4-A Tournament at home on Thursday night, facing the winner between Lafayette and Heirway Christian at 8:30 p.m. With the region and state tournaments coming up, the OMA coach gets to try some things they haven't all season.
"Region tournament going to state tournament, this is where coaches make their money. You've had all the films, you've had all the games, now you put your team in the best situation against the best teams you've seen throughout the whole year. I know as a coach and our coaching staff will have these guys ready to play. It makes it fun," Williams said.
The key to this week's practices is to not get complacent, as the Warriors have gone 20-5 this season and only lost once in region play. The young squad is playing beyond its years, but can't let up now in 'win-or-go-home' situations.
"First, we're trying to get better. Even though we're the No. 1 seed and even though we have a record of 20-5 and I think right now we are ranked No. 1 in the state in the GISA coach's poll, I feel as a coach my job is to get these guys better. I'm not satisfied with what I've seen the last two weeks. We have the talent here, but talent can get you beat," Williams said.
The Warriors open the region tournament on Thursday night at 8:30 against the winner between Tuesday's matchup between No. 4 Lafayette and No. 5 Heirway Christian. It is likely that the Warriors will ease to a semifinal win and a trip to the region championship game, where it is likely they will meet Dawson Street after the current No. 2 team in the state does the same in its semifinal matchup.
Williams isn't spending this week worrying about Friday night, it's all about what the team already knows — it plays on Thursday and has to win.
"We never look past an opponent. For example, we played them here and were up 40 at halftime, then we played them at their place and we were only up eight. When you're dealing with 15, 16, 17-year-old kids, we respect every opponent. I think that opponent the other night, we beat them by 25 — it could be Lafayette or it could be Heirway — but they understand we're not going to take anybody lightly," Williams said.
Even though they aren't looking past anyone or already putting '2013' under region champions just yet, that is the goal. A region championship is always a goal. Finishing third last year makes that push a little bit harder for this group.
"First of all, if you're not shooting for a region championship, I say it every year, you need to get out of coaching. If you're not shooting for any championship, you need to get out of coaching because what are you preparing your program for, to be second? To be third? We prepare to be first, night-in and night-out," Williams said. "These guys see the light at the end of the tunnel and they see the success, but they also have to learn how to win."
This group is Williams' youngest team since he's been coaching at OMA, and that makes him coach a little more, be a little more vocal and work a little harder — not that he minds any of that. This year's team has yet to lose on its home court, and it doesn't intend to start now.
There is youth, but there is also a sense of urgency after making the final four three years ago, then being knocked out in the elite eight two years ago and the first round last season. It all starts on Thursday night in the region tournament.
"This is my youngest team, which means my job has to become more important," Williams said. "It's a lot of reteaching. This is the first team, maybe ever in Oak Mountain history, to win 20 regular-season games and be undefeated at home the whole regular season. They are taking care of business, but I think we have to understand we are beatable."