BY TREVOR HORN
THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz
LODI – Mekhi Williams no longer needs to be referred to as a freshman phenom.
After his 29-point performance Wednesday, leading Natomas High School to a 66-62 win over Riverbank High School in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinals, Williams is now just phenomenal.
From the gymnasium at Tokay High School in Lodi, Williams hit three-pointers with ease, controlled the ball for the Nighthawks. When senior Phillip Morgan fouled out late in the fourth quarter, Williams created his own shot when it looked like the Bruins defense collapsed on him.
If he would have walked out of a phone booth with an “S” on his chest ala Superman, no one would have been surprised.
“He told me he was ready to go today, and he just came out and played,” said head coach Brian Hamilton, adding Williams was sick earlier in the week with “flu-like symptoms.”
Wednesday night’s game will go down as one of the greatest freshman performances in Sacramento-area playoff basketball.
“It was a great game, it was intense,” Williams said. “Our home crowd came out. I just wanted to come out and play,”
Natomas High advanced to the section DIV championships at Sleep Train Arena, just three miles north of campus. The game is set for 3 p.m. Saturday, March 8 against top-seeded Encina.
Hamilton played in the section title game at the then-known Arco Arena for McClatchy in the mid-90s. Now in his second year as the coach at Natomas High, he is ready to give his players the chance to shine on the big stage.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, especially for the 80 percent of these kids who were on this team last year and had to go through us getting beat up and beat up,” Hamilton said of the 5-18 record last season. “Now for them to fight and fight and being able to play in our back yard at (Sleep Train Arena) is unbelievable.”
Riverbank (23-4) senior Rolaun Dunham scored 22 points for the Bruins.
Artrell Smith scored 13 for the Nighthawks and Phillip Morgan had seven points and 13 rebounds.
Natomas High is playing in a section title game for the first time since 2002. That year Foothill High School beat Natomas High 53-52 in the DIII finals. Natomas last won the DIII section title in 1999 and 2000.
PHOTOS BY JEREMIAH McWRIGHT, NHS INTERN