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Head coach Brian Murphy prepares first season with Bobcat girls

Brian Murphy

The Marshalltown High School girls’ basketball team will start its season this Friday.

Leading the Bobcats, who finished 2-18 last season, will be first-year head coach Brian Murphy who previously coached at Meskwaki Settlement School.

At Meskwaki Settlement, Murphy guided the Warriors to a 12-9 record and an appearance in the regional semifinal game.

While at Meskwaki Settlement, Murphy’s Warriors excelled defensively, as they allowed an average of 44.5 points per game, averaged 39.1 rebounds, 14.7 steals and 6.7 blocks per game.

Creating and developing a physical team for the Bobcats on defense has been a major focal point for Murphy. Last season the Bobcats averaged 11.4 rebounds and 5.5 steals per game while totaling three blocks all of last season.

“Defensively [we’re] really trying to instill that five-player mentality where everybody on the floor is working together, keep the ball out of the paint and force those outside shots,” Murphy said. “One of the things I want to instill is when a player is on the floor that they are going to play hard and going to be scrappy. We will probably be outsized in almost every game we play. That’s just kind of the reality of it. I want to instill that they might outsize us, but they are not going to outwork us. Obviously that starts on the defensive end. Getting up all the pressure, forcing teams to kick it out, make that extra pass and make them work harder.”

The Bobcats allowed 60 points per game last season. For Murphy, that statistic has led to a more in-depth philosophy for the team to understand the value of the ball itself by diminishing turnovers — which the Bobcats averaged 26 of per game last winter.

“When I look at some of the numbers from last year, some of the scores are concerning,” Murphy said. “The biggest thing for me is turnovers. A lot of the lopsided scores were direct results of turnovers that led to easy offensive baskets [and] really try to minimize turnovers and keep our margins close.

“I want that same [physical] mentality to transfer on the offensive end as well. I think too often the physicality of a defense is dictating what we do and where we go. I really want to change that mindset where, as an offensive player, you have to match the physicality of that defense. That’s as much as a mental shift than it is a physical shift.”

of that defense. That’s as much as a mental shift than it is a physical shift.”

The high point for Marshalltown is that the Bobcats return nine seniors and leading scorers Erica Johnson and Madi Finch. Johnson averaged 8.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game, while Finch averaged 7.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. According to Murphy, returning a large senior class has several pros but has brought some cons that naturally occur for a first-year head coach.

“We have [nine seniors] this year which is fantastic,” Murphy said. “We have got some back that went out last year which is great but it’s also a little bit tough for them as they have been playing under a different system with a different coach. They are suddenly having to shift terminology and philosophy, what is the correct positioning and that sort of stuff. On the one hand, the maturity and all that stuff are fantastic but it’s a learning process for both players and coaches where we’re trying to adjust some things and tweak whatever we needed to do to move forward for what we want to do.”

Offensively, Marshalltown scored 24.2 points per game. As a team, the Bobcats shot 26.6 percent from the floor and made 12 3-pointers all of last season. Developing the team’s passing game and shooting have been points of emphasis for Murphy, especially with having an undersized team.

“Certainly Erica and Madi bring back a lot of leadership from last year,” Murphy said. “Honestly one of the things I hope is through ball movement and trying to rely a little bit more both on and off the ball that we can actually have a little bit more of a balanced approach on the offensive end. We’re basically looking for the best open shot that we can get. We have told all of our players that if we have an open shot, we want you to shoot it. We do not want hesitation. Every player has to believe that they can score on the floor. We are really trying to push that mentality of everybody attacks and everybody contributes so we don’t sit back and wait for somebody else to take that control. We are going to need their leadership but we’re hoping that everyone steps up as well.

“One thing I have always preached is that every game is played one quarter, one play at a time. When you are facing some of those tougher teams that are not only tough in the conference but tough in the entire state you have really got to limit how much you are thinking about the game on macro level. It’s got to be play by play, quarter by quarter and that’s the one thing I really want to focus on which is not let one mistake get to us.”

Marshalltown will start its season on the road Friday against Urbandale.