Nigel Williams-Goss first saw the tiny gym at Henderson International when he was just 14. And even though it has just seven rows of bleachers on one side and none on the other, he fell in love.
On Wednesday, the senior said goodbye by helping Findlay Prep to an undefeated regular season.
Williams-Goss had 17 points, four rebounds, nine assists and two steals to help the Pilots top Impact Academy 102-67 to finish 34-0.
“My eyes lit up the first time I stepped in here,” said Williams-Goss, the only four-year player in Findlay history. “I just felt right at home, and said this is where I want to spend the next four years of my life. And it’s turned out better than I ever expected.”
This season turned out better for Findlay than some expected. Williams-Goss was the only returning starter for the team, and longtime coach Mike Peck left to take a job with the Idaho Stampede of the NBA D-League.
“This group’s probably a little underappreciated,” first-year head coach Todd Simon said. “We had eight new guys, we returned one starter, one guy that played, really, and had a coaching change in mid-September. All those things combined, I think people doubted a little bit.”
Those doubts have been erased by one of the top teams in the history of one of the nation’s top programs.
“This is the first time in our program history that we’ve finished our season unanimous No. 1 in all the polls, which is pretty special,” Simon said. “We’ve never won 34 games in a year, so there’s a lot of milestones that this group did that are going to set the bar pretty high for upcoming groups.”
Senior Stanford Robinson, who signed with Indiana, led the Pilots with 21 points on Wednesday. UNLV-bound forward Christian Wood added 16 points and nine rebounds.
But it was Williams-Goss who facilitated much of the team’s offense as he has all year, either setting up teammates or making big shots.
“He’s just such a warrior,” Simon said. “He just does everything right. He’s taken all the principles of our program and just kind of lives them. There’s not a better embassador for our program.”
Williams-Goss recently was named to the roster for both the McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand All-Star game.
“All that stuff is great, but my main focus was going undefeated,” Williams-Goss said. “And we were able to accomplish that.
“It’s been my goal every single year that I’ve been here, and I haven’t been able to accomplish that until this year. To work for three years and not achieve it and then to come out like this, this is the way you want to end it.”
Simon said he is unsure whether the team will participate in the National High School Invitational this season. That event is in April. The Pilots won the NHSI last season.
“The No. 2 team in the country is a team we’ve already beaten and they have two losses,” Simon said. “So in a way, it’s almost like we have a two-game lead on the rest of the field.
“The timing of it’s less than ideal, but we’ll see. We’re going to talk about it as a team and an administration and make sure it makes sense for everybody academically and the whole thing.”
But if it’s up to Williams-Goss and the players, the Pilots will continue their season.
“We want to go,” Williams-Goss said. “We’ve wanted to play the best all year. We haven’t backed down from anyone. And we want to go out playing the top team.”