It’s been a difficult week for Blue Springs freshman guard Jada Williams, who had a casual friendship with late Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant.
Williams, one of the premier freshman guards in the nation, paid Bryant the ultimate tribute Thursday night at Blue Springs South when she scored 24 points – his number with the Lakers – to lead the Wildcats to a 61-48 Suburban Big Six win.
“You could tell by watching Jada this week how much Kobe’s death really hit her,” said assistant coach Joe Cusack, as Bryant and his young daughter Gianna were killed Sunday when the helicopter they were taking to Gianna’s game crashed in a fog-related accident in California.
“Then, for her to score 24 tonight is pretty amazing, but that’s the type of player Jada has become. She is so special. Nothing she ever does surprises us.”
Williams posed for photos, visited with family, fans and Jaguar players after the game and admitted that it had been a difficult week.
“It’s been a tough week for a lot of reasons,” Williams said. “We’ve all had some issues to deal with, family issues and things, and we had that tough loss to Park Hill, so tonight is very rewarding for a lot of reasons.”
She paused, and added, “A lot of people don’t know how much Kobe meant to me. He was such a big inspiration to me and the rest of the world.
“I know he and Gigi wanted the girls game to rise, and for me to hit 24 tonight let’s me show just a small fraction of how much respect I have for him. I will never forget the words he said to me. I promised myself that the love he had for the game will be shown every time I step on the court.”
The win helps the No. 10-state ranked Wildcats improve to 13-4 overall and 1-2 in conference play while South, ranked No. 7 in the state, falls to 13-2 and 4-2.
“They’re a very good team,” South coach Kory Lower said of the Wildcats. “They played great defense and pretty much had an answer for everything we were trying to do, except when it came to Jaidynn (Mason).
“When she hit her first 3-pointer tonight, I turned to Lizzy (Wendell, a South assistant and former Blue Springs standout player) and said, ‘Big play J!’ She is so good.”
Mason, who battled foul problems early on, collected her fifth foul midway through the fourth quarter, and tied Williams for scoring honors with 24 points.
“Mason had a big game, but we did a nice job shutting down their other top scorers,” Wildcats coach Mark Spigarelli said. “Aliyah did an amazing job on (Lauren) Gillig, and I thought we played a complete game tonight, which is something we didn’t do in our last game.
“This might have been Jada’s best high school game. She did everything you could ask from a player and all the girls really responded tonight every time they made a run at us.”
Ja’Cole Johnson finished with 18 points for Blue Springs. Hannah Smith added 11 for the Jaguars.