Samantha Murphy got the last laugh this week.
The Xavier Prep graduate and career scoring leader at Grand Canyon University was named the NCAA Division II Women’s Player of the Year.
The senior was also selected as the Pacific West Conference Player of the Year, but was snubbed for the West Region honor, which went to Reyana Colson at Cal Poly Pomona.
GCU and Cal Poly met in the West Region Championship last Monday. That gave Murphy, the top D-II women’s scorer in the nation (24.6 ppg), a chance to square off against Colson, the No. 2 scorer in the country (21.3 ppg).
No. 23 Cal Poly, despite being ranked well below No. 7 GCU in the national standings, was given the No. 1 seed in the tourney. Another slight.
As it turned out, Cal Poly lived up to its billing and ended the Antelopes’ season with a 68-61 victory. Colson also outscored Murphy, putting up 28 points to Murphy’s 24.
But, in the end, it was Murphy who was given the ultimate recognition.
The 5’8′ guard couldn’t be ignored by the selection committee, made up of college sports information directors. She set so many records during her four years at the small Christian college in west Phoenix that her legacy will remain long after she’s gone.
An All-West Region first-team selection the past two years, Murphy finished her career at GCU with 2,147 points to top the career list and also put up a record 786 points this season – the most of any player, man or woman, in the school’s history. She also set a school record for most points in a game (49) and led the nation in free-throw shooting, topping all Division II players with 91.4 percent.
To say that she got the last laugh probably isn’t the best metaphor. She’s not the kind that would make a fuss either way. A humble over-achiever, she has been the embodiment of a role model for younger girl athletes to follow.
“It’s meant a lot to me,” Murphy said of her college career. “I couldn’t ask for a better team. I’m glad I was given this opportunity… I do feel blessed.”
In fact, the entire team has been the kind of group that fans love to love. More than 200 of those fans made the trip to Pomona, Calif., for the final game, traveling with the team in a caravan of buses.
The fact that this team set the school record for wins in a season (29) helped ignite that enthusiasm and interest in the women’s program.
GCU’s program will take a big hit next season with the loss of both Murphy and Rosalyn Nelson, another local product, who will graduate as the No. 2 all-time scorer in GCU history. The graduate of Deer Valley High School in Glendale finished with 1,543 points and is also the all-time leader in steals (384) and assists (535).
Murphy and Nelson will be tough acts to follow – because they were also class acts.
(Photo: GCU Athletics/Tim Koors)