And when the Wildcats suffered through a prolonged second-quarter drought -- Archbishop Murphy was outscored 15-1 by Washington in a stretch of nearly five minutes -- he was even more unsure.
But after a first half of spurts and lulls, the Wildcats rallied in the second half with two strong, steady quarters to overtake and defeat the Patriots 60-54 in a semifinal game of the Archbishop Murphy Christmas Tournament.
"This was our first time playing in a tournament with these kids, so I didn't know how they were going to respond," Williams said. "I hope they're ready to try to bring home a championship, but you just never know with these young kids.
"But I'm so proud of the way they responded to the challenge of playing a team like Washington," he said. "(The Patriots) come from a tough 2A league (near Tacoma) and they're battle tested. Our kids have never been exposed to that kind of style of play, so I was really proud of how they responded to (Washington's) size, physicality and to the speed of the game."
Archbishop Murphy started slowly, missing its first six shots from the field and spotting the Patriots to an early 6-0 lead. But the Wildcats finally got untracked and pushed out to a 27-17 lead early in the second quarter.
At which point the wheels came off.
Facing a 10-point deficit, Washington ran off five straight points before Archbishop Murphy broke the string with a free throw. The Patriots then scored another 10 unanswered points for a 32-28 lead.
"Part of being a young team is that we kind of lose focus and become undisciplined at times," Williams said. "But it's a credit to our kids, they recognize that.
"Young teams can sometimes hang their heads a little bit after a run like that, but they came in (at halftime) and refocused and regrouped. We made some adjustments and in the second half they showed (good) execution down the stretch," he said.
The Wildcats, who trailed 32-31 at halftime, finally went in front to stay early in the third period. The lead reached a high of 11 points, 55-44, on a 3-point shot by Brantle Harris with just over five minutes left in the game, though Washington managed to whittle the margin down to six points at the final horn.
Friday's victory moves the Wildcats into tonight's tournament championship game where they can expect another stiff challenge. Archbishop Murphy will face Shorewood, a likely contender in the Western Conference 3A South and a team led by Washington State University-bound Josh Hawkinson, a 6-foot-9 senior center.
"It's not going to get any easier," Williams said of the showdown with Shorewood. "It's going to take a collective effort from all of us. We're so undersized against their 6-9 (Hawkinson) and 6-8 (Sam Boone), and they also have some good shooters.
"So it's going to be a huge challenge for us. But once again, I'm really proud of how my players step up to challenges here. So we're looking forward to that."
Harris, a 6-2 sophomore guard, was high for Archbishop Murphy with 22 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Senior guard Phil Hoban and freshman guard Josh Parafina each chipped in 10 points.
At Archbishop Murphy H.S.
Arch. Murphy 21 10 14 15 -- 60
Washington 15 17 9 13 -- 54
Archbishop Murphy -- Zander Clouse 4, Phil Hoban 10, Connor Sand 0, Brantle Harris 22, Sajan Saini 2, Chase White 3, Conner Longoria 5, Josh Parafina 10, Adam Rasmussen 2, Bryant Sutton 2. Washington -- Jaomani Scott 1, Maurice Hunter 12, Elijah Fuller 10, Deontre McGowen 0, Andre Dixon 12, Marshaun Williams 7, Thomas Cusic 12. 3-point goals -- Parafina 2, White 1, Hoban 1, Harris 4, Hunter 2, Fuller 2, Dixon 2. Records -- Archbishop Murphy 4-2 overall. Washington 3-5.
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