An unstoppable force struck Erikson Gym Tuesday: The Wildcat girls basketball team from Archbishop Murphy.
At the final buzzer, ATM led 74-39, reflecting a long night for the Falcons from the start. The Wildcats remain undefeated in the Cascade Conference at 6-0 while the Falcons fell to 1-6.
The Wildcats scored first, a nice outside tumble into the net from 5-foot-5 guard Nickole Bartholomew — showing even the Wildcat’s shortest player could shoot. And steal. And pass. And rebound.
Falcon Lindsey Newman was fouled twice and Cayla Calderwood made a couple of fine layups but at the first break, the score was 25-7.
A long night loomed ever larger for South Whidbey.
The Wildcats are a well-oiled machine, able to score at will — they are practiced, professional, unflappable, unafraid and unfazed by setbacks.
With 3:02 left in the first half, Newman battled her way down court and suddenly stopped to make a three-pointer, almost with a sense of resignation.
Whenever a Falcon came off the bench or after a break, it seemed to take a few moments to get up to speed on the court.
The Wildcats, however, sprang off the sidelines ready to play instantly.
Nevertheless, South Whidbey made a real effort to stay in the game. Newman, Natasha Roberts, Calderwood, Chantal LaChaussee, Melanie Murphy and Allison Wood each played their very best to the end.
“I kind of knew it was coming,” Falcon coach Henry Pope said ruefully.
“We only had a single practice after Samantha (Pope) was hurt in Granite Falls. They tried hard to adjust to the loss of a key player against an outstanding team,” he said.
The score at the half was 39-19.
Roberts, filling in at point guard for Pope, made some excellent defensive plays. But turnovers, poor shooting, aggressive Wildcat defense and inability to manage the 30-second clock continued to plague the Falcons.
They also were guilty of several double-dribbling and traveling calls.
Down 56-25 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Falcon girls stepped up the tempo as ATM coach John Barhanovich began cycling in his reserves.
With two minutes left in the game, the Wildcats broke the 70-point barrier but South Whidbey still would not fold.
Newman finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds for South Whidbey, Calderwood had seven points and four rebounds and Roberts contributed four rebounds.
Barhanovich was happy with the outcome.
“We played well in all phases of the game,” the ATM coach said.
“I understand they may have been affected by the injury to the coach’s daughter. All of us wish her a speedy recovery,” Barhanovich added.
Pope said the team will concentrate on freeing up the ballhandler more and try to develop a better “sense of the court.”
“A freelance offense won’t work so we’re going to tighten up on team speed, accuracy, shooting and a few other essentials,” Pope said.
During Wednesday’s practice, the girls worked on passing and methods to get players more open, especially inside.
Wood noted Pope’s absence has been a problem.
“She’s one of our co-captains and always gets us pumped up before games,” Wood said. “We miss her on and off the court and I think that made us a little nervous.”
Alannah Alber agreed. “Each of us has our own way of doing things and it’ll take us time for Natasha and the rest of us to adjust.”
The girls welcome Sultan to Erikson Gym at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29.