Wildcats still in hunt for playoff berth

  • David Pan<br>Enterprise sports editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 11:25am

EVERETT — If the Archbishop Murphy boys basketball team is able to climb out of the cellar of the Cascade Conference and make it to the Tri-district playoffs, the Wildcats might point to last week’s loss to Granite Falls as the turning point.

Archbishop Murphy suffered its worst shooting performance of the season against a team that came into the game in last place in the league.

The results were not pretty as the Tigers roughed up the Wildcats 56-36 in the Jan. 20 contest at Archbishop Murphy High School.

The Wildcats started out reasonably well, taking a 10-8 first quarter lead before falling behind 22-19 at halftime.

The third quarter proved to be the downfall for Archbishop Murphy. Granite Falls outscored the Wildcats 16-7 to take a 12-point advantage into the fourth quarter. The Tigers were never threatened the rest of the way.

“The big thing was our shot selection,” Archbishop Murphy coach Jerry Zander said. “We shot 16 for 61 for the game and I think the reason why that was such a poor percentage was that we made really poor decisions on shot selection. We were rushing things. Guys were trying to make things happen on their own.”

Archbishop Murphy had been shooting about 46 percent from the field, so the team’s 26 percent connect rate was surprising, especially since the Wildcats were playing at home, Zander added.

The 20-point loss also was uncharacteristic of Archbishop Murphy’s recent games. The Wildcats’ last three games have been close. Archbishop Murphy lost to Cedarcrest 70-68 on Jan. 13 and to South Whidbey 44-33 on Jan. 10. The Wildcats also played King’s tough in a 47-35 defeat on Jan. 6.

So following last Friday night’s loss to Granite Falls, Archbishop Murphy held a lengthy team meeting in the locker room to clear the air.

The players vented their feelings and tried to get everything out in the open, Zander said.

“We just wanted to make sure there was no miscommunication and everyone was on the same page,” he said. “The big thing is that the season isn’t over at this point. We still have an opportunity to get a trip to districts. Everyone’s back to 0-0 (at districts). Anything can happen at that point.”

Four out of the five 2A teams advance to the Tri-district playoffs. Granite Falls (1-5, 6-8) moved into the fourth place among the league’s 2A teams.

The Wildcats have work to do.

“We need to improve defensively,” Zander said. “We’re giving up too many easy shots in the lane. We have to close up the lane and make teams take outside shots with hands in the faces.”

Archbishop Murphy also needs to work on rebounding better, an especially tough challenge since both of the team’s centers are sidelined with injuries.

The team’s tallest player, 6-foot-5 sophomore Ryan Bourke broke his ankle two weeks into the season and may not make it back this year. Senior Chris Hoerauf, a 6-2 forward, also isn’t expected to play anymore this season due to a reoccurring back injury from football.

“Ever since Chris has been gone, we’re looking for a guys who can fill those shoes and play big,” Zander said. “We don’t have anyone big … it (defense) needs to be a team effort. If we play good solid team defense then we should be able to keep the guys off the board.”

Both of the Wildcats’ leading scorers were held below their season averages in the loss to Granite Falls. Senior guard Alex Burns, who was hampered by foul trouble, scored only five points; Burns averages 11.4 points per game.

“We’re a different team when he’s sitting on the bench,” Zander said.

Senior forward Alex Ungs had six points, four off of his average.

Zander did see some good contributions from some of the Wildcats’ younger players.

“We have a lot of younger guys who are able to help us quite a bit,” Zander said. “Geoff Hunter played well the last two games. So did Jared Smith. We’ve had young guys step up and really help us out.”

In its next game, Archbishop Murphy (1-5 in the league, 3-10 overall) recorded its first league victory of the season, defeating Sultan 66-56 Tuesday night at Archbishop Murphy High School.

Burns scored a game-high 22 points and Joey Jensen added 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

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