BETHEL – It was supposed to have been an excellent match-up.
Julia Jenike, who will continue her athletic career at Florida International, and her Bethel-Tate Lady Tigers squaring off against Samantha Murphy and the Fayetteville Lady Rockets. Murphy averages well over 20 points per game and dropped 45 against Manchester earlier this season.
Unfortunately, it was not to be. With Jenike still out nursing an ankle sprain, it was just Murphy who took to the court in Bethel Monday night when Fayetteville visited for a non-league game. The Lady Rockets would take home the victory, 59-38.
The first quarter was a battle. Bethel rode hot shooting and seven points from Haylee Foster to a 16-15 lead, but even though his team was out front Bethel head coach Dave Fallis knew the team had to play better on defense.
“It was a track meet, which is not what we wanted to do with Fayetteville,” Fallis said. “To beat Fayetteville, we knew we couldn’t give up that many points. We figured if we gave up 45, since we’re a little lethargic offensively right now without Julia [Jenike], we’d be in it. It looked OK because we were hitting shots, but then we stopped hitting shots. We started turning the ball over and it went from bad to worse.”
It certainly did. Fayetteville’s offense continued to produce, but the Lady Tigers went ice-cold in the second quarter, scoring just eight points, four of which came from Alyssa Demaris. The Lady Rockets, meanwhile, got six points from Samantha Murphy to help propel them to a 30-24 lead at halftime.
Bethel’s offense remained cold throughout the rest of the game, scoring just 14 points the rest of the way. Fayetteville continued to build on their lead, scoring 39 points over the final 16 minutes of game time.
Lady Rockets head coach Toby Sheets complemented the Lady Tigers, and said his team prepares to go on lengthy scoring streaks like they were able to do against Fayetteville.
“They’re a very good team,” Sheets said. “It definitely hurt with Jenike out but they played hard, they played well. We just had that one little run there where we got up by 10 or 12. It seemed like we were getting ready to go down and the next thing you know we’re up 10. You get that sometimes with a fast-paced ball-club. That’s what we hope happens, that’s what we practice to do. Sometimes it works that way.”
Samantha Murphy led all scorers with 25 points while Taylor Cornett and Cecilia Murphy each added 11. Cecilia Murphy was all over the Lady Rockets’ scorebook, pulling down four rebounds, dishing out five assists and tallying eight steals.
Sheets said one of the turning points in the game came when Cecilia Murphy hit a three-pointer, immediately followed by a steal and two-point shot from Samantha Murphy.
“That was major,” Sheets said. “As coaches, we’d like to be able to take all the credit for everything, but I’m kind of letting Cecilia Murphy do her own thing. A lot of that stuff is not me calling it out, it’s her just feeling that. We’ve just let her do what she wants to do. She gets up there and gives that little bit of pressure, it’s like a one-man press but it can sure cause fits. I thought it worked well in the Brown County Tournament as well.”
The Lady Tigers were led offensively by Allison Parks, who scored 13 points. Foster finished the game with 11 and Demaris with eight. The team only played six players in the contest, and Fallis said his team was tired by the end of the ballgame.
“We made mental mistakes,” Fallis said. “We weren’t deep, we only played six, so fatigue set in. Anytime you have fatigue set in, the mental stuff goes. We talked in the locker room at halftime and after the game at length about why being mentally tough is important and how to fight through some of the mistakes that we knew we were going to make going in.”
The ankle injury suffered by Jenike is a big reason the team is dealing with a lack of depth. Jenike suffered the injury in the team’s victory over Gamble Montessori on Dec. 23, and Fallis said he’s hopeful she will return in time for the team’s rematch with the Georgetown Lady G-Men on Jan. 21. Her return will help bolster the team from a leadership standpoint, something Fallis said the squad needs.
“We struggle a bit with leadership on this team right now,” Fallis said. “We don’t have a vocal leader, especially on the defensive side of the ball. That showed tonight, because we gave up stuff defensively we normally don’t give up.”
Before Jenike returns, however, there’s a chance for other players to step up and fill her role. Fallis said the team needs a vocal leader, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
“All five starters today could be leaders on this team if they decided to go ahead and do it,” Fallis said. “It’s tougher for the freshman to step in and I understand that, but we have to have better communication in the timeouts, in the locker room, on the bench but most of all on the defensive side of the ball and we struggled with that mightily tonight.”
The Lady Rockets return home for a bout with the Batavia Lady Bulldogs on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Bethel remains at home for a contest against the Seton Lady Saints Saturday, Jan. 9 at 2:30 p.m. The team will also square off against the Western Brown Lady Broncos on Monday, Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m.