Katie Murphy has been playing basketball for quite a while.

She led the Peoria Richwoods girls basketball team to the Class 3A state championship in 2009, and the 6-foot forward went on to have a solid collegiate career at Ball State.

This is Murphy's third season as the assistant coach for the Pekin girls basketball team. She got an opportunity to be the coach for a night last week when the Dragons played host to Metamora in a Mid-Illini Conference game.

The game was switched from Dec. 19 to Wednesday at Metamora's request.
Pekin coach Becky Fulkerson couldn't be at Hawkins Gym on Wednesday because she was out of town on a previously planned trip, so in stepped Murphy to fill in for her. Metamora won 57-40.

Fulkerson has been Pekin's coach since 2008. This is her 10th season, and the Metamora game was the first one she missed.

"I wanted us to win, of course, but the game was a great learning experience for me," Murphy said. "I learned I have a lot of growing to do as a coach. I have a ton of respect for Becky. Now I have even more respect for her for what she does during a game.

"As an assistant coach, I look for certain things during a game. When you're the coach, there's so much to watch."

Substituting wasn't too much of an issue in the game against Metamora (8-8, 2-3), Murphy said, because Pekin (5-6, 1-4) doesn't have a big roster.

Nine players dressed for the Dragons against Metamora, and eight saw playing time.
Murphy and Fulkerson have known each other for years. They grew up on the same street in Peoria and Fulkerson was Murphy's babysitter when Murphy was a toddler.

"I can tell already that Katie is going to be big help to our program. She's made some great suggestions," Fulkerson said in a 2015 Pekin Times story.

Being a head coach isn't on Murphy's radar at the moment.

She's the placement coordinator for EP!C in Peoria, an organization that works with people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. This is Murphy's second year with EP!C; she's been in her current job since July.

Pekin sophomore coach Jay Fitzanko worked as an assistant coach at the Metamora game, and Murphy also got help from former Pekin star Sydney Diekhoff, who sat behind the Dragons bench and kept stats.

A freshman on the McKendree University women's basketball team, Diekhoff was home on a holiday break.

The 5-foot-10 guard has played in all eight of McKendree's games coming off the bench and is averaging 8.6 points per game. Her 14 triples are tops on the team.

In the Bearcats' most recent game, a 72-65 win Dec. 11 over visiting Northwest Missouri State, Diekhoff drilled a 3-pointer with 3:53 left to break a 63-63 and give McKendree (3-5) the lead for good. Diekhoff scored 10 points in the game.

McKendree's next game is Saturday at Davenport in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
As for the Pekin-Metamora game, Molly Flannigan scored nearly half of Pekin's points, tossing in a game-high 18 including a trio of 3-point shots.

Tess Cascia had six points for the Dragons.

Metamora led 29-18 at halftime, thanks mainly to a 14-4 advantage in the second quarter, and pulled away in the second half.

"Metamora crashed the boards, and capitalized on their second chances," Murphy said.
"We didn't capitalize on our offensive rebounds. Their press also gave us fits."

Pekin will compete this week in the Charleston Holiday Tournament.

Steve Stein can be reached at stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.