Local basketball players carry GCU to best-ever season

Grand Canyon University used a roster loaded with local athletes this year to make a run at a women’s basketball national championship.

The Antelopes climbed to a No. 7 national ranking, but came up just a little short of the final goal.

But what a ride it was!

Seven of the 11 players on this year’s GCU roster came from Arizona high schools to form a team that made it to the NCAA II West Region Championship game, but came up just three baskets short of a berth in the Elite 8.

They didn’t make it all the way on their journey to a title, but they set the standard as the first GCU women’s team to win a berth in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 game since the small Christian college in west Phoenix began NCAA play.

Along the way, they set more school records than could have been imagined back in November when their odyssey began… most consecutive wins at home (15)… most wins in a season (29)… first team to go an entire season without a home loss… and a record-tying 17-game winning streak.

They also pocketed the PacWest Conference championship, their fourth in five years.

Three of those seven locals on the roster are seniors this year.  Rosalyn Nelson and Katie Johnson are from Deer Valley High School and Samantha Murphy is from Xavier Prep. The fourth, Kristi Girdley, came to the party from Aliso Viejo, Calif.

All made their contributions to this year’s successes, but it was Murphy and Nelson that pulled the train on offense.

Murphy was named the PacWest Player of the Week seven times this year, was selected to the All-PacWest first team for the fourth straight year, and the All-Region first team the past two years.

And, to top it off, she was just announced as the conference Player of the Year for the second consecutive season.  As might be expected, her coach, Trent May, is this year’s conference Coach of the Year – his third in the four years Murphy has been on board.

Nelson, who was named to the All-Conference second team, wraps up her career as No. 2 on the school’s all-time scoring ledger and the leader in steals (384) and assists (535).

At the top of the scoring list is Murphy.

The 5’8″ guard scored 2,147 points to reach that distinction.   In addition, her 786 points this season are the most of any GCU player, man or woman, in any one season.

And, by the way, she led the nation this year in scoring with a 24.6 average, and also was the leader at the free-throw line where she posted an incredible 91.4 percent average.

Murphy, Nelson, and Girdley finished up in the top five all-time in assists.

Those locals rounding out the roster included junior forward, Stevie Kamp, from Mountain View HS; sophomore center, Kim Young, from Glendale HS; and freshman swing player, Maylinn Smith, from Mesquite HS.

This year’s seniors will be missed next year.  But not soon forgotten.

They’ve set the bar high for those teams that will follow.

(Photo: GCU Athletics)