Birthday display: Cowgirls gift Murphy dominant bi-district victory

Meer Mahfuz, Staff Writer

FRISCO — Yesterday, aka “Murph Day” attributed to the birthday of Coppell coach Ryan Murphy, provided the Coppell girls basketball team a taste of something it has been longing for: sweet, sweet playoff victory. 

To celebrate “Murph Day”, the Cowgirls presented Murphy with cupcakes during walkthroughs and before heading down to Prosper to play in their first playoff game in four years as well as holding up a “Happy Murph Day” sign after their playoff game. 

After scoring nine unanswered points to open the game, the Cowgirls never looked back as they cruised to defeat Allen, 63-39, in a Class 6A Region I bi-district playoff game last night at Prosper Rock Hill.

Allen finish its season at 19-15 while the Cowgirls, No. 4 in Class 6A, improve to 36-1.

“It’s just fun; it was a good close to the day,” Murphy said. 

The sweetness of the Cowgirls playoff victory was not just limited to presenting Murphy with a playoff win on its birthday, but it marked the first playoff game the Cowgirls have won in 11 years. The last playoff victory for the Cowgirls was a 61-45 victory over Keller on Feb. 10, 2011.

“[Murphy] is a great coach,” Coppell junior guard Waverly Hassman said. “He sacrifices a lot to be there with us everyday for two hours after school. He goes through the emotions of a teenage girl all with us; he helps us through that and he understands us so giving him this birthday present was really special to all of us.”

The first quarter was split into two parts; in the first part, the Cowgirls roared to a 9-0 lead but in the second half, Allen was able to weather the storm and go on a 8-7 run to close out the remainder of the first quarter. Senior forward India Howard scored eight points while sophomore guard Ella Spiller scored five points and Hassman scored two free throws with 0.8 left on the game clock to give the Cowgirls a 17-7 lead.

Hassman truly started heating up in the second quarter to give the Cowgirls a 34-14 lead going into halftime. Of the 17 points scored by the Cowgirls in the second quarter, Hassman scored 10 of them off of a pair of 3-pointers and a pair of layups. Defensively, the Cowgirls employed their full court press and were able to force 15 turnovers from the Eagles in the first half alone.

Hassman, who recently returned to the team after suffering a stress reaction in her left navicular bone that sidelined her for eight weeks, provided the Cowgirls with a much needed offensive spark and gained valuable confidence in the process. 

“[Hassman] has been working her way back from injury so she’s been shaking off some rust,” Murphy said. “It was good to see her get out there and hit a few shorts to get her confidence going because we are going to rely pretty heavily on her, especially from the guard spot, to handle the ball, stretch the defense and take some pressure off of [Howard and junior guard Jules Lamendola]. It was great to see her going and she definitely gave us a spark.

In the third quarter, Howard, Lamendola and junior guard Allyssa Potter scored six points a piece to guide pace the Cowgirls’ offensively. The Cowgirls grew their halftime lead by four points en route to a 52-28 lead over the Eagles. 

Spiller drained a 3-pointer and a jump shot while Howard scored a contested layup to give the Cowgirls a 30-point lead over the Eagles with 3:03 left to play in the game. Murphy pulled off his starters to prevent injury, rest his starters and give minutes to the other girls. 

Howard finished with 21 points for the Cowgirls while Spiller and Hassman scored 12 points apiece. Howard was a stalwart for the Cowgirls who acted as cleanup crew all night defensively by forcing turnovers, winning rebounds and playing gritty defense.

“As the captain of the team and as a senior, you just have to set the tone and you have to lead,” Howard said. “We performed on the court; we did what we were supposed to do and that’s why we got the result we got.”

Though a dominating performance, the game was not quite perfect for the Cowgirls. Mainly, the Cowgirls will need to work on tightening up their rotations after letting the Eagles’ shooters get loose a couple of times. Also, the Cowgirls will need to work on executing their set plays because the lead was so great that the Cowgirls stopped calling plays.

Despite not playing a playoff game in four years, the Cowgirls didn’t miss a beat and the performance they put on Monday gives them the confidence to go and perform on a similar or greater level every single playoff game going forward.

“We wanted to come out with a fast start and with energy to show Allen that we’re not here to battle you,” Hassman said. “It’s not going to be close. We have worked all year to get to this point and we’re not going to come into the playoffs and throw it all away. We’re just not here to play with you, we’re here to get past you.”

The Cowgirls will play the winner of tonight’s Irving MacArthur – Grand Prairie bi-district game in the Class 6A Region I area playoffs, with the date and site to be determined.

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