Kamryn Williams can claim he wasn’t nervous, but the fact that he nearly dribbled off his foot while unguarded just seconds before would suggest otherwise.
But there he was, the Sierra graduate who averages less than nine minutes a game for Air Force, charged with making two of the biggest free throws in recent memory for the academy.
He made both, pushing Air Force’s lead over No. 22 San Diego State to three points with 19 seconds remaining Saturday for the final 70-67 margin, and he looked calm in doing so.
“I remember doing that in high school,” said Williams, who drew on his experience with the two-time state 4A champion Stallions. “Especially with the crowd and how loud it was and the atmosphere, I’ve been in that before.”
Williams, who scored six points in 15 minutes, was on the floor late not because of his scoring ability, but because of his energy and ability to rebound. Coach Dave Pilipovich was stunned when he looked at his postgame stat sheet and saw Williams had just two rebounds, because Williams was around the ball so much.
Air Force needed all the help it could get on the glass. It was outrebounded by San Diego State 37-23.
“We struggle like this in practice to rebound,” Pilipovich said. “When we struggle, he’s the one who goes and gets the ball. The coaching staff said we’ve got to get Kam in the game to go rebound.”
Williams’ teammates singled him out as the reason the Falcons were able to halt a second-half slump that saw a 10-point lead disappear.
“The difference? We subbed Kam in and he started getting rebounds,” senior guard Todd Fletcher said.
“Kam was the one who pretty much lifted us in the second half,” senior Michael Lyons said. “Getting rebounds and just his toughness, that’s what was needed.”
And in the end, Air Force needed his free throws. His shots turned a tenuous one-point lead into a far-more relaxing three. Had he failed to convert, there’s no telling what shot San Diego State might have drawn up for leading scorer Jamaal Franklin. Instead, the Aztecs finished out the game by misfiring on a couple of 3-point attempts.
“I just acted like I was in practice,” Williams said. “I knew I was going to make it as long as I flicked my wrist.”