Nikola Williams is nothing if not fearless.
Thirteen seconds into the third quarter, with her team trailing, the scrappy senior forward was airborne. She crashed into a 6-foot-3 center who had been a dominant force all game. And, somehow, she connected on a reverse layup before drawing a foul and falling hard to the floor.
The message was clear.
"It comes down to that no-fear attitude that Shawnee brings," Williams said. "I've gone up against bigger girls my whole life. It doesn't mean anything. You just have to keep attacking."
Friday night, that attitude fueled her third-ranked Renegades as they overcame an 11-point deficit to upset No. 2 Camden Catholic, 49-35, at home on opening night.
"I think to start the season, this was a great, outstanding game," said Williams, who chipped in 16 points, 15 rebounds and three steals. "Our first half was a little shaky . . . But we had to come out here and prove ourselves."
Shawnee guard Jen Byrne led all scorers with 16 points. For Byrne, the game was a statement as she works to fill in where graduated star Olivia Askin left off.
"Olivia is a huge role to fill, and I definitely take that seriously - she's one of my best friends and I've learned so much from her," Byrne said. "I definitely had nerves in the beginning. But I realized I had to do what I had to do, and we all just came together after that."
Camden Catholic built an early lead, thanks to strong outside shooting and a breakout performance by 6-foot-3 freshman center Brittany Garner.
The first half belonged to Garner, a star in the making, who recorded five blocks and six rebounds through her first two quarters of high school basketball, completely disrupting Shawnee's offense. And her team led by as many as 11 points.
Shawnee chipped away late in the second quarter, and came out on fire in the third quarter - starting with Williams' hard drive to the basket at Garner on the half's first play.
Williams scored seven points and grabbed seven rebounds in an inspired, gritty third-quarter performance as her team outscored Camden Catholic, 17-9, and finished ahead by 35-30.
The fourth quarter was more of the same. Camden Catholic struggled with turnovers, cold shooting, and foul trouble, including Garner who fouled out late and finished with two points, 10 rebounds, and six blocks.
"Foul trouble took us out of our game," said Camden Catholic coach Chris Palladino. "Foul trouble and turnover hurt us. And we started to rush a little bit. We just have to jell - we'll get there."
Camden Catholic 14 7 9 5 - 35
Shawnee 7 11 17 14 - 49
CC: Julia Braungart 10, Sierra Taylor 5, Taiah Thornton 11, Ariel Robinson 5, Brittany Garner 2, Kate Deutsch 2.
S: Taylor Ryan 6, Karissa Mansure 5, Nikola Williams 16, Amanda Morello 2, Jen Byrne 18, Jenna Hoffner 2.