Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
PIKETON — Nearly two years ago, Riley Williams walked up to Brett Coreno as nervous as she’s ever been. Coreno, who she’d known since she was a baby, represented the final door to a pathway Williams wanted to travel on.
For the first two years of her high school career, Riley had played basketball at Piketon under Coreno. But after her sophomore year, she decided that focusing on volleyball and joining the Redstreaks’ powerlifting team was the best decision for her future … meaning hoops was out.
It also meant she had to deliver bad news to Coreno, a task she wasn’t at all excited about.
“She came up to me and told me that she wasn’t going to play and I asked her why. She said, ‘Coach, I don’t like to run,’ and I said, ‘Well, that’s going to be a problem,’” Coreno said, chuckling. “Basketball isn’t Riley’s speed. Volleyball is more her thing. It’s more laid back and that’s more of who she is. It bothered me but I completely understood. It’s just not for everyone.”
With the announcement made to Coreno, Riley could breathe easier. But just because she didn’t want to play basketball didn’t mean she didn’t want to be around her friends and teammates.
“Coach Coreno, coach [Ruthie Dorkoff] and coach Walt [Woodruff] would do anything for all of the players and they are always there when you need advice about basketball or life in general,” Riley said. “It broke my heart to think about not being a part of that anymore.”
Coreno felt the same way. So, they did something about it.
Riley’s best friend Gracie Lightle — Piketon’s starting guard and leading scorer — and Coreno had a discussion about Riley possibly taking on the team’s statistician duties.
From there, as they say, the rest is history.
“Her and Grace are best friends and right before our first game, I asked Grace about her taking stats. I wouldn’t have asked her if I didn’t think [Riley] wasn’t a great kid,” Coreno said. “I’ve known her since she was a little girl. I still wanted her to be a part of the program. So I asked her and she was all gung ho about it. She’s been a great stat keeper and more importantly, she’s good for our program to have.”
Instead of on-court duties, Riley now has off-court duties that include tallying shot attempts, field goals, rebounds, turnovers, steals and assists … and she’s very much a part of a basketball family.
“I really enjoy getting to be on the bench each game because I get a front row seat to support my old teammates,” she said. “I wanted to become the statistician because, even though I wasn’t playing, I still wanted to be a part of the program. I know it sounds cliche but it’s bigger than just basketball … it’s a family.”
Families rely on one another. Riley’s relationship with coaches and players is no different.
“We’ve gained a supporter. She sits on the bench and she’s just as into the game as anybody else. The kids love having her around. I’ll look over sometimes and see her jumping up and down with the girls on the bench,” Coreno said. “We rely on her for media. That’s how we turn are stats in each night. If she says someone has 10 rebounds, that player has nine or 10. She’s perfect for it. If she wants to take stats until she’s 30, she can do it.”
And, if you’re wondering, the initial decision to join Piketon’s powerlifting team paid its dividends.
As Riley got stronger, her volleyball game progressed. After a junior year where she posted 45 kills, 137 digs and 14 aces, Williams posted 190 kills, 177 digs and 22 aces this past fall.
Those numbers helped her earn all-conference honors for the first time in her career.
“The decision not to play wasn’t easy. I had always played basketball but it never came easily to me and, like coach would say, it’s a grind. I felt like I was struggling to keep up with the varsity pace,” she said. “I think it was ultimately the right decision for me because it really improved my volleyball game, which is the sport I dedicated all my time to.”
After graduation, Riley plans to attend Ohio State University, majoring in Animal Science.
But no matter how far away she is, Coreno and his family will always have a special place in her heart.
“I’ve know coach and been close with his whole family for my entire life. You hear people say he is the best but I can’t stress how true that really is,” Riley said. “He and his wife are the best people and they genuinely care about the basketball players and program. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him as a role model.”
Before the Redstreaks’ now-veteran stat keeper gets to college, she still has a handful of basketball games to attend. The Redstreaks sit at 9-6 overall and have aspirations of a successful postseason run.
Riley think their goals can be reached and, you best believe she’s the team’s biggest supporter.
“This team plays well together. Since it is four senior starters and an experienced junior who have played together since day one, they know each other and what they need to do,” she said. “When they play their game, they’re hard to beat. I think this year, they definitely have a chance at a sectional title and a nice tournament run.”