BASKETBALL

Parkway girls basketball's first LHSAA Final Four in 13 years brings smile to coach with longtime illness

Jimmy Watson
Shreveport Times

The smile that broke across the face of Parkway coach Gloria Williams on Thursday night as she climbed a blue, 8-foot ladder under the home team goal was unmistakable in its intensity. 

The climb came after Parkway's girls basketball team throttled Northshore 82-41 to reach the Class 5A state semifinals.

Williams has battled health challenges over the past few years as she’s methodically built the Lady Panthers into arguably the best 5A team in the state. That will be determined next week.

With the talent she has in south Bossier, the pressure to succeed grows. Parkway didn’t make the LHSAA Final Four last year thanks to an equally talented Benton team that willed its way to Hammond with a quarterfinal victory on Parkway’s floor.

That didn’t happen this time as Parkway reached the semifinals of the state’s highest class for the first time in 13 years.

Sophomore Chloe Larry was just a 2-year-old when the last group of Lady Panthers made the trip to the state championships. Larry dropped in a career-high 31 points with five 3-pointers to advance her team. 

DRIVEN BY BROTHERS: Parkway's Chloe Larry has brothers setting the example

Parkway coach Gloria Williams is all smiles while cutting down the nets after her team advanced to the LHSAA Class 5A Final Four next week in Hammond.

That’s why Williams was smiling so widely as she cut down the remaining strands of the net while her husband — Parkway principal Jeremiah Williams — steadied the ladder.

Williams did his own net cutting after coaching Bossier to multiple state titles before moving into administration.  

Williams’ health issues have stayed private, but they have been life altering for a coach who is able to manage her needs in conjunction with those of her team.

“I put that stuff aside and focus on my young ladies when I can. When I’m here with them, I give them 100%,” Williams said. “When I’m away, I have a staff that will step in and do everything that I would have done.”

Having people in her inner circle she trusts has made life much easier and has kept the Lady Panthers running on high octane whether or not their coach feels up to calling the plays. 

“These young ladies have a chemistry that is indescribable,” Williams said. “They love one another. They hang out together. They have one another’s back in the classroom and on the court.

That’s enough to make any coach smile.

Jimmy Watson covers Shreveport-Bossier area sports. Email him at jwatson@shreveporttimes.com and follow him on Twitter @JimmyWatson6.