Emma Duff, Maisy Williams and coach Tanya Greenfield agree: It was good to get a win like that out of the way now.
But it was plenty scary.
The top-ranked Black Hills High School girls basketball team led seventh-ranked Archbishop Murphy by as many as 15 points at Saint Martin’s University on Saturday afternoon.
But the Wolves had to outlast a late rally — the Wildcats cut their deficit to four points with under four minutes to play — to close out a 52-43 win in a Class 2A state regional game.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
“From here on out, every game is going to be tough,” said Williams, a sophomore forward. “Close games now prepare us for what we’re going to see in the future.”
The future, though, doesn’t start until 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
Black Hills (22-1) secured a first-round bye at the 2A state tournament in Yakima with the win. The Wolves will play the winner of an opening-round game between ninth-ranked East Valley of Spokane (17-6) and third-ranked Wapato (19-3).
“We get to take a break and watch the other teams, and figure out what we need to do for our next opponent,” said Duff, the Wolves’ leading scorer, who passed the 400-point mark for the season against Archbishop Murphy.
“It’s really nice being in this situation where we can go to Yakima and take a little breather.”
Black Hills is a favorite to contend for a 2A title — the Wolves took sixth last season — after retaining most of its personnel.
“This season we’ve gotten a lot better at keeping our heads up and staying composed,” Duff said. “That’s a lot due to the Chehalis games. Those are crazy and get really intense.
“I think when we’re able to practice being composed throughout the season, it pays off in the playoffs.”
That certainly helped the Wolves preserve the lead Saturday.
Black Hills led from Duff’s opening basket with 7:09 to go in the first quarter, but struggled at times to stay in front.
“We came out in the third quarter and made a great run, and then let them back in it,” Greenfield said.
The Wolves led by seven points at halftime, and built that advantage to 15 near the end of the third quarter, but Archbishop Murphy never went away.
“They had a plan, and they followed it very well,” Williams said. “It kind of took us by surprise at first.”
Julia Lucas scored the first basket of the fourth quarter for the Wildcats, which led to a quick 9-0 run.
Maddie Hill — who scored a team-high 14 points for Archbishop Murphy — capped the run midway through the quarter.
And Olivia Riojas cut Black Hills’ lead to four points on a breakaway layup with 3:27 to play.
Several times in the second half, the Wildcats had second, third and even fourth-chance baskets.
“We got outworked,” Greenfield said. “We had three stops in a row in a man (defense), and that looked good. Then we started having some mismatches.
“(Lucas), she’s just relentless on the boards. Between that, and some missed drives for layups, some missed threes and some missed closeouts, they’re right back in it.”
Greenfield called a timeout after the Riojas basket.
Rachel LaBelle immediately pushed the Black Hills lead back to six points with a basket, but Emily Rodabaugh restored it to four with 1:55 to go.
“I think games, no matter what, will go both ways,” Williams said. “It was just up to us to stay strong and correct what we had to do.”
The Wildcats never got closer, and missed nine shots in the final two minutes as the Wolves slipped away.
Taylor Patti answered Rodabaugh on the following possession, and Duff hit three free throws in the final minute.
Duff scored a game-high 25 points. Williams added another 10.
Greenfield said she is happy with the side of the bracket the Wolves are on in Yakima.
Black Hills can’t see fourth-ranked W.F. West (20-4), its 2A Evergreen Conference rival, until a title game.
“At this point, it’s just one game at a time,” Greenfield said. “We live to see another day.
“That’s what the state tournament is about. There’s one game in front of you, you wait to see who you play, you hope you’re prepared.”
Zillah 79, Elma 38: The Leopards’ offense was too much for the Eagles as Samantha Bowman scored 25 points to lead Zillah to the state tournament.
Brooke Sutherby scored 10 points for Elma in the season-ending loss.
Archbishop Murphy 11 11 8 13_43
Black Hills 18 11 15 8_50
ATM – Roijas 6, Hill 14, Lucas 7, Rodabaugh 9, Ducheane 3, Dorney 4
BH – Williams 10, LaBelle 2, Patti 4, River 3, Duff 25, Nurmi 8