YAKIMA — During a dominant first-half run, the Archbishop Murphy girls basketball team appeared well on its way to the program’s first-ever state title.
The Wildcats were beating W.F. West’s full-court pressure with relative ease. Their balanced scoring attack was humming. And their defense was frustrating W.F. West on the other end.
All of that vanished with a nightmarish second half that crushed Archbishop Murphy’s championship dreams.
No. 2-seeded W.F. West rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit and dealt the fifth-seeded Wildcats a heartbreaking 64-52 loss in the Class 2A Hardwood Classic championship game Saturday night at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
“Being up by so much and having it kind of slip away, it’s going to be worse (than) just losing from the beginning,” Archbishop Murphy coach Cassie Snyder said.
“But I’m so proud of this team,” she later added. “It takes a lot to get (to the Hardwood Classic) in the first place, let alone to the championship game. As much as it sucks to lose, they need to be proud of themselves, because there are a lot of teams who didn’t get here.”
It marked the second consecutive year that W.F. West dashed the Wildcats’ title aspirations. Last season, W.F. West beat Archbishop Murphy 58-44 in the state quarterfinals.
“It’s really disappointing to get this far and not have it end the way that we want it, especially with how well our first half went,” Wildcats junior standout Emily Rodabaugh said.
Archbishop Murphy (24-3) rattled off a 25-6 run to build a 15-point second-quarter lead, but W.F. West outscored the Wildcats 40-18 in the second half.
“You’ve got to play a full four quarters, and we didn’t,” Snyder said.
After shooting a scorching 62 percent from the field in the first half, Archbishop Murphy went just 24 percent after the break.
“We didn’t move the ball like we did the first half,” Snyder said of her team’s second-half struggles. “We played frantic, took quick shots and that’s it. It’s a simple game, and we didn’t do what we needed to do.”
W.F. West (25-2) struggled against Archbishop Murphy’s long, athletic defense in the first half, shooting just 22 percent from the field. But the Bearcats found their groove and shot 60 percent after the break.
“You can’t expect a good team like that to shoot that badly for two halves,” Rodabaugh said.
Senior guard Julia Johnson sparked W.F. West’s second-half surge with 12 third-quarter points and finished with 18.
“We didn’t force her left,” Snyder said. “We let her go exactly where she wanted to go.”
W.F. West junior Erika Brumfield, a 6-foot-3 forward, added 16 points. Senior guard Kiara Steen hit a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers and finished with 12 points for the Bearcats, who claimed their program’s second state title.
Rodabaugh, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, led Archbishop Murphy with 19 points. Senior guard Maddie Hill added three 3-pointers and finished with 11 points.
After committing turnovers on each of their first four possessions of the game, the Wildcats settled in and embarked on their massive first-half run.
Sophomore forward Julia Lucas scored eight points during the dominant stretch, including a press-break lay-in that pushed Archbishop Murphy’s lead to 25-10 less than three minutes into the second quarter.
In the closing seconds of the half, W.F. West trimmed the gap to 34-24 on a 3-pointer by Chloee Akins. The Bearcats then opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run, capped by back-to-back transition baskets that cut the margin to 36-32.
Taya McCallum swished a 3-pointer late in the third to give W.F. West a 43-42 edge, which was the Bearcats’ first lead since the game’s opening minutes.
From there, the teams were even until a pivotal four-point possession midway through the fourth quarter.
After being fouled on a 3-pointer, Steen hit the first two free throws before missing the third. Brumfield grabbed the rebound and converted the putback to give W.F. West a four-point lead.
Just moments later, W.F. West forced a jump ball on a backcourt trap. Brumfield followed with a short jumper to stretch the margin to 54-48 with 3:40 to play.
Brumfield then added another basket and W.F. West scored off another backcourt trap to cap a string of 10 straight points, giving the Bearcats a 58-48 lead with 2:33 to play.
“It was frustrating,” Rodabaugh said of W.F. West’s second-half onslaught. “We weren’t able to stop it. We never really recovered from it as soon as they went on their first run.”