Wildcats prepared to make strong postseason push | Girls basketball

Archbishop Murphy’s entire starting lineup returns
By David Robert Pan | Jan 05, 2018
Photo by: David R Pan Archbishop Murphy is led by junior standout and reigning Cascade Conference MVP Emily Rodabaugh.

It’s no surprise that a month into the regular season the Archbishop Murphy girls basketball team is sitting atop the Cascade Conference girls basketball standings.

The Wildcats returned all five starters from last year’s state playoff team.

That experience is translating into a 4-0 start in league play and an overall record of 9-0. Just as important, Archbishop Murphy is ahead of where the team was at this point of the season in most aspects of its game.

“We can add to a lot of things that we’ve done in the past,” Wildcats coach Cassie Snyder said. “We don’t have to start from zero. So it’s been nice this year just to add layers.”

The major benefit of having so much returning experience is better team chemistry. Many of the Wildcats have been teammates for three years.

“We all know each other’s game,” senior guard Olivia Riojas said. “We’re able to communicate with each other. We know where each other is going to be on the court.”

Junior guard Emily Rodabaugh, the league’s reigning MVP, sees the familiarity as a major asset.

“It definitely allows us to come out with a stronger start and not have really any uncertainty about what to expect from each other on the floor,” she said.

Rodabaugh continues to elevate her game.

“She’s become a much more well-rounded player offensively and defensively,” Snyder said. “She’s become a good passer and is able to score in different ways.”

The Wildcats’ offense, in particular its half-court game, is an area Snyder and the players will continue to focus through the rest of the season. Archbishop Murphy executed its offense well last year, Snyder said.

But once the Wildcats advanced to the state tournament and faced tougher opponents, they experienced challenges.

“So that’s a big focus and a goal for us: to execute in the half-court,” Snyder said. “The girls are pretty good at getting steals, stops and getting scores in transition. When we face the more competitive teams, we have to be able to execute in the half-court.”

Archbishop Murphy defeated Prosser 41-37 in a first round state tournament game before losing to W.F. West 58-44. It was the first state appearancce for the Wildcats since 2013.

“It was an eye-opening experience to see what other talent is out there and to see the other teams that aren’t really in our area,” Rodabaugh said. “I think it was a learning experience for us and it allowed us to really show everyone that we have to be able to trust each other and rely on each other if we want to accomplish our goals.”

Archbishop Murphy hosts King’s (3-0 in the league, 5-3), who is tied for first place in league, at 6:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 5. So far the Wildcats have defeated each of their three league opponents by 26 or more points.

To keep its competitive edge, Archbishop Murphy scheduled tough non-conference opponents throughout the regular season schedule, Snyder noted. The Wildcats take on Renton and Bonney Lake later this month and face Lynden Christian in February.

“We try to make practice as hard as possible,” Rodabaugh added. “Then we really try and focus on execution in those league games.”

The Wildcats can’t afford any letdown heading into the postseason, Riojas said.

“We definitely need to keep the intensity through practice and not let up,” she said.

Teams can’t expect to be able to coast through regular season and then expect to execute against the best teams in the state, Snyder added.

“We have to practice every day and prepare and get better,” the Archbishop Murphy coach said.

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