Hillsboro senior Tazia Williamson kept telling herself to “stay up.”
It was a rough first half for the Gardner-Webb signee who found herself surrounded by double and triple teams from Independence. But Williamson broke out in the second half and finished with 14 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks to lead Hillsboro to a 42-27 victory in the Region 6-4A quarterfinal Friday night.
“I’m not going to sit around and think about how tough I’ve got it,” Williamson said. “I didn’t want my team to lose. We didn’t want to go home, and that’s what we talked about at halftime.”
The Lady Burros (18-8) will face Nolensville (18-6) at 6 p.m. Monday in the region semifinal.
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Williamson had two points in the first two quarters and felt like all the work she has put into developing an offensive game over the past year was breaking down. An animated halftime speech, mostly from the players themselves, helped turn the tide.
Williamson has ventured in this territory before. When Williamson was a freshman, Hillsboro coach Cherish Stringfield knew she had a Division I player. She also knew Williamson’s raw skills needed development.
“I knew she was going to be special because she already had the footspeed,” Stringfield said. “The high motor and she doesn’t get tired. I just new we had to play catch-up with her offensive skills.”
Hillsboro guards found Williamson for eight straight points in the fourth quarter off pick-n-rolls. Williamson stepped outside to knock down two jumpers in the middle of Independence’s zone. It was the kind of performance Williamson has come to expect from herself.
“There’s no question I’m a better offensive player this year,” she said. “I was limited in years past, but I have that confidence now that I didn’t have a year ago.”
Williamson played in only her third game since returning from an injured ankle that kept her out for two weeks. During that time, Hillsboro ran a five-guard system that kept the wins coming.
“Without Tazia in the post, it was a guard party,” Stringfield said. “When Tazia got back, we had to re-establish her. When she’s involved early and often, our offense is much more efficient.”
The two-time District 11 champs have enjoyed a program resurgence the past two years and are a win away from returning to the region title. Last year’s region championship was the first for Hillsboro since 2010.
Reach sports writer George Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.