At 10-1, Murphy sits tied for the lead atop the Smoky Mountain Conference standings for varsity girls basketball. The Bulldogs’ full-court pressure gives many a team fits, but Swain navigated the stifling front with relative grace and confidence to go into halftime of Tuesday’s game facing a mere two-point deficit.
The Lady Devils came out of halftime ready to weather the turbulence with its renewed sense of comfort…but the pressure never came. Murphy pulled out of the press and dropped back into a half-court 1-3-1 zone. Swain was flummoxed and struggled to find any sort of footing on offense. The defensive switch catalyzed a 30-2 run for the Bulldogs, allowing them to pull away and secure the 77-60 win.
“We just didn’t do a good job attacking gaps,” said head coach Michael Turner of Murphy’s half-court zone. “In a 1-3-1, the weakness is on the baseline because you have four defenders at the free-throw line or higher, and we didn’t do a good job attacking it. When we started turning the ball over we lost a little confidence and stopped doing the things we are capable of doing. We had more turnovers in the half court than we did in the full court and their strength is to turn you over in the full court.”
The loss drops Swain to 2-8 for the season, but the Lady Devils get Andrews next on Thursday, a team they trounced 65-22 back on Jan. 9. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6 but was moved due to inclement weather. Turner said that despite the ease with which his team dispatched Andrews the first time around, they will prepare for the Wildcats as if it were another bout with Murphy or Robbinsville, the other conference leader.
“If you don’t show up any given night, anybody can beat anybody,” he said of life in the Big Smoky. “We beat Rosman, and then they came down here a few weeks later and shot the ball well and beat us.”