Casey figured to be one of the 12th Region's best teams because of the return of seniors Murphy, Beth Patterson, Kelli Warner and Tabitha Yaden. Instead, Murphy went down with a knee injury and didn't return until early January. The same night Murphy came back, Yaden went down with a knee injury and Tuesday's game was only her fourth since her injury. Warner also had a knee problem and didn't start playing until mid-January.
Still, despite struggling to a disappointing 10-16 record going into postseason play, the Rebels never doubted they could win. That confidence soared when they arrived here Tuesday and saw Lincoln's leading scorer, junior Jenny Ralston, on crutches due to an ankle injury that kept her from playing.
"I hated that for her because I know what it is like to have to sit out," Murphy said. "But we also thought we finally got a break, something that had not happened all season."
Still, it didn't look good when the Pats took a 36-28 lead in the third period. However, a 15-1 run changed that.
Casey's only problem was Murphy fouling out
The only problem for Casey was that Murphy, who had 13 points and nine rebounds, fouled out with 7 minutes, 22 seconds to play. She came to the bench with tears in her eyes and pounded her fist on a chair for several seconds.
"I wasn't real happy, but I just decided to do what I could on the bench to help. I guess I turned into an assistant coach," Murphy said.
The game was far more physical than most girls games and featured everything from a takedown on a rebound to pushing and shoving on almost every play.
"Lincoln is always physical," Murphy said. "We expected bumps, pushes and hacks. This was probably the most physical game I've ever played in."
But the physical play was not one-sided.
"We can give it out, too," Murphy said. "Lincoln knows how to frustrate you, but we didn't back down."
Salyers wouldn't let them. He was as animated and passionate on the sideline as any player and certainly didn't look like a coach finishing his 15th season.
"You coach because of games like this," Salyers said. "These kids and a game like this are what keep you coming back year after year."
And yelling play after play?
"That's just him," Murphy said. "It doesn't matter who he yells at. He just yells. I was always taught not to pay attention to his yelling but just to listen to what he was saying. We all do that."
Whatever they do, it worked.
But nothing helped more than having everyone back playing. Yaden took just one shot, but her three points, five rebounds and one assist in 24 minutes were important. Warner had 10 points, two assists and two rebounds. Murphy might have had a huge game if not for the fouls because she got her 13 points in just 16 minutes.
Could Casey possibly win again in Friday's championship game against tonight's Boyle County-Danville winner?
"We've got two or three more wins in us. We're just getting started," Murphy said.