MORGANTOWN — Zoe Murphy stepped in as the University High girls’ basketball team’s starting point guard as a freshman two years ago and has seen the ups and downs of a career.
The Hawks have been ranked in the top 10 at certain times and beaten some of the perennial powerhouses in West Virginia, including Morgantown and Parkersburg South.
UHS also went through rough patches, struggling in the postseason due in large part to being in arguably the toughest section in the state. MHS is consistently a top five program, and Buckhannon-Upshur has been one of the best teams in the state over the last two years, including holding the No. 1 spot this season.
In their 11 losses so far this season, eight of those came against teams ranked in the top 10 in their respective class (lost to Class A No. 1 Huntington St. Joe’s). The Hawks have also beaten two top 10 teams, MHS and Class AA
No. 8 Bluefield.
With the sectional format, every team, regardless of record, makes the postseason in West Virginia, so UHS may have an upper-hand despite what its win-loss is.
“I think we all enjoy the challenge because it makes us better as players and a team,” Murphy said. “We have a really tough schedule, but we have been working hard every practice and hopefully that prepares us for sectionals.”
As a freshman, Murphy and UHS faced MHS in the sectional semifinals as the fourth seed. The Mohigans made quick work of the Hawks, but that MHS squad was the final chapter of their three-peat state championship run.
During Murphy’s sophomore year, UHS moved up to the No. 3 seed, but fell again to MHS.
If this season continues to go the way it’s headed, the Hawks may be the fourth seed and will travel to No. 1 Buckhannon-Upshur in a lose or go home contest. The Buccaneers have beaten UHS twice by an average of 18.5 points.
“They have good team chemistry and they all work hard every minute they’re on the floor,” Murphy said.
What B-U does is a model for what Murphy hopes the Hawks can be. With just one senior, Rylee Childers, UHS has a very young team that is still learning. There are five juniors and four sophomores on the roster.
With a bench of five players, the lack of depth and chemistry has hurt through the first half of the season, and “we all have to be on the same page and want to have the same goals,” Murphy said.
Murphy also wants to try and improve her game to meet those goals, believing that teamwork is essential and defense is critical to win games.
Leadership is another attribute that she has taken a hold, trying to get the younger girls to buy into what it takes to get over the sectional hurdle.
“I always hype them up, stay positive for them when they make a mistake, and work hard at practice to be a good role model,” Murphy said.