By Jason Burch
La Habra Journal
Rarely does one high school basketball team possess a pair of the top three-point shooters in the county. Having a trio, virtually unheard of.
In Sean Murphy, Kevin Marlow and Lucas Everett, the Sonora Raiders possess a tandem of sharpshooters, each of whom confident they are the best. And based on the numbers they have posted this season, it’s hard to argue. The trio could be right, perhaps only rivaling each other as Orange County’s top marksman.
Some high school teams don’t post their players stats, as to not give opposing coaches a scouting advantage. But based upon the data available, Marlow, Murphy and Everett comprise three of the top five three-point shooters in Orange County this season.
Everett, a junior, lead everybody with 82 three-pointers this season and finished a robust 45% from behind the arc. He made at least five in a game 12 different times this season. Perhaps his best night came against San Dieguito Academy early in the year when he knocked down eight in one game.
Not to be outdone, Murphy drilled 10 the next night against Animo South Los Angeles to close out the Crean Lutheran tournament. He finished the season with 72 made on 35% shooting.
Marlow, who was the Raiders leading scorer, made a total of 68 threes and shot 35% as well. Had his battery-mates not outdone him, Marlow would own the school record as well. He hit seven against Central Gwinnett (Georgia), and six in the final regular season game against Fullerton this year.
Raiders assistant coach Jason Stein also pointed out Marlow’s uncanny ability as a clutch shooter.
“Kevin hit two huge three-pointers in the closing minutes of regulation against La Costa Canyon in the semi-finals of the Torrey Pines tournament,” Stein said. “Then he hit another big three against Santa Fe Christian in the finals of that same tournament to take home the tournament MVP.”
“And of course, Kevin hit the game winner against Sunny Hills in overtime too,” Stein added.
Beyond the incredible numbers and records each has posted, perhaps the trio’s most resounding endorsement is that they made a believer out of their coach Mike Murphy.
For nearly three decades Murphy has built Sonora into one of the top high school basketball programs in Orange County with a traditional inside-out, pressure defense and ball control philosophy.
But then his son Sean joined the team last season. He and the rest of the trio have shot the ball so well the past two years that they forced Murphy to adapt his approach.
“We practice it all the time so if we’re in the game and ever get an open look, [coach] Murph is never going to tell us not to shoot,” Marlow said. “So if we get a good look we’re going to take the shot.”
“Yeah he is real old school guy,” Marlow said. “He would love it if we threw the ball inside every time down the court.”
“He’s never coached three shooters like this,” Sean said of his dad. “After the second half of league last year though, he started to figure it out.”
“I think it was kind of hard for him to expand his thinking at first, but after he got used to it, it worked out really well for us.” Marlow added. “He realized how we could shoot the ball and how it expands the offense, so I think he was more open to that this year.”
“I feel like him changing the way he’s coached his teams in the past has helped us out a lot, because we have all shot the ball pretty well this year,” Sean added.
Sure, making seven, eight or even 10 threes in a game certainly helped the trio sway their passionately old-school coach to release the reigns.
But coach Murphy admitted it was their work off the court that impressed him the most.
“We’ve played 100 games since last year, so I’ve seen them play enough to know I have to let them shoot the ball, that’s what they do,” coach Murphy said. “The faster we play, and the more possessions there are, the better our chances are to win.”
“They work at it, they make those shots for a reason,” Murphy said. “They are always in the gym shooting.”
Murphy said the trio practice so much that he actually has to protect them from overdoing it sometimes. He referenced perhaps basketball’s all-time perfectionist, Kobe Bryant saying not to take more than 600 shots a day to prevent his shoulders from injury.
Aside from their commitment to putting in work, Murphy believes all three truly have a gift to shoot the basketball.
“A lot of it is God-given, they can really shoot the ball and they all get hot, it’s not just one of them, it’s all three,” he added.
After playing his first two seasons at Canyon High School, Sean made the transition to play under his dad his junior year. Sean has flourished at Sonora and helped his pops notch the most regular season wins in over a decade.
Needless to say, both are confident they made the right choice.
“I remember last year when Sean hit five in a quarter, and I was thinking, oh my God this is the game of his life, then last summer he did it every other game.” Murphy said. “It’s really fun coaching your son, I’m glad I got the chance to do it.”
He admitted it was stressful and a rollercoaster of emotions, but concluded it was one of the best experiences in his nearly three decades at Sonora.
It wasn’t just Murphy who began to take notice of the talented shooters on his team.
Game by game, opposing coaches echoed the same takeaway — we knew it was going to be tough stopping all three shooters — nearly every coach admitting how unusual it was to face a team with that many talented shooters.
Despite their best laid plans, opposing coaches had a tough time stifling the trio this year. Behind Marlow, Murphy and Everett’s blistering shooting from beyond the arc, Sonora (25-4) finished with its best record in eight seasons.
“This team shoots the ball as good or better than any team I’ve ever had,” coach Murphy said.
“It’s a ridiculous number how many threes they have made,” coach Murphy said. “You know for a coach like me, who’s old-school, I like to see the ball passed more, but I also encourage those guys every time they’re open to shoot it.”
Marlow and Murphy both plan to play basketball in college next year. Murphy is leaning towards Irvine Valley College.
“I’m not going to stop playing until somebody tells me I have to,” Sean said.
Marlow hasn’t decided on a school, but is talking to several universities right now. The returning Freeway League MVP also carries a 4.3 GPA, which should certainly give Marlow plenty of options.
Fortunately, coach Murphy won’t lose all three, as Everett will be back next season for his senior year at Sonora.
Despite the disappointing ending Friday night, they all agreed the past two seasons were a success. Competing together in sports gives you something much more important than wins and losses, or shooting percentages and records.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Sean concluded. “I love these guys, they’ll be my friends for life.”