– Kayden D. Williams
I love basketball.
Not college basketball or pro-basketball.
High school basketball.
There is something about the passion the players exude on the court.
The sound of basketball shoes squeaking on the court.
The sound of the basketball hitting the backboard before swishing through the white net.
But on Saturday night, in Elyria, Ohio, there was something more.
Something almost … magical.
That night, two rivals came together to honor one family whose connection to both communities was as strong as the bond shared between siblings.
It was one of love and hate.
The love was for Kayden Williams, and his family.
The hate, well it wasn’t really hate. It was more of a passion burning inside both teams to get the “W” for Kayden.
You see, he and his older brother, KJ, were Wildcats.
His sisters – Pioneers.
Kayden was a Wildcat when he passed away on Dec. 27 from injuries sustained in a single motor vehicle accident on a country road. KJ graduated from Keystone several years ago.
The Williams family now has two daughters left in high school – and they are both Pioneers through and through.
But on Saturday night, both teams came together to honor Kayden and what he stood for – high school sports – leaving it all on the field/court – and an unwavering dedication to both.
As the game started, the Elyria varsity team ran onto the court wearing a T-shirt remembering Kayden. Moments later, the Keystone varsity basketball team did the same. For several minutes, the two teams just seemed to blend together.
The rivalry paused as the crowd gave a moment of silence for Kayden.
Then, it was game time.
To say both teams gave it 110 percent is an understatement.
It’s as if Kayden was fueling both teams on the court.
But, in the last seconds, it was Brody Kuhl’s three-point shot that gave Keystone the edge they needed to win.
And then, the unthinkable happened. Keystone fans ran onto the court before the game officially ended.
A technical foul was called on Keystone for charging the floor.
Yet, a small miracle happened at the same time. Just as Keystone was charged with a technical foul, the referee determined that Brody had been fouled during his three-point shot.
He was going to the free-throw line.
And he scored.
Elyria also had the opportunity to score due to Keystone’s technical foul, but in the end, the player only made one shot.
The night belonged to Keystone.
It also belonged to the Williams family.
To see Kayden’s brother, KJ jump up and down, cheering for his alma mater was a sight I will never forget.
To watch players run over to the Williams family after the game ended, embracing parents, Sarah and Keenan – I was filled with such pride to be a Keystone Wildcat.
Then, finally to witness Coach Jeff Holzhauer walk over to KJ, saying, “I told ya didn’t I?”
It wasn’t just a win for Keystone Saturday night.
It was a win for the Williams family because I am pretty sure Kayden was whooping and hollering from the heavens just as his family was down on Earth.
Somehow, I think it was his way of letting his family know that he was just fine.
And that in time, they will be too.