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Hope’s Murphy gets 800th career win

Ralph Tasker.

Pete Shock.

And now, Jim Murphy makes three.

One of New Mexico’s most exclusive high school clubs grew by one on Friday night, as Hope Christian’s boys basketball coach won his 800th career game. For posterity, the result that got him to that lofty number was an 82-64 road victory at Highland.

“Unbelievable,” the 59-year-old Murphy said after his team doused him with a dozen water bottles inside the locker room once Murphy entered. “Pete Shock was a great coach at Cliff, we played them in my early years coaching, and coach Tasker is a legendary coach.”

Murphy’s career mark at Hope Christian is 800-215 in this, his 37th season with the Huskies.

Tasker, with 1,122 victories, is the wins leader. Shock had 854 victories, and Murphy, assuming he does not retire, should pass Shock in another 2-3 seasons. He passed Marv Sanders for third on list early this season.

“I don’t know if I’ll be here that long,” Murphy said, referring to Tasker’s gargantuan number, “but just to be mentioned with those guys is very humbling.”

As Friday’s game ended, the celebrations began. Fans held up small white signs with the number 800 printed on them, and three gold balloons spelled out “800” next to the Hope bench. Some former Huskies players were also on hand to congratulate Murphy.

“What really touched me tonight was to see the number of different alumni that were out there,” Murphy said. “Three guys from (my) 1985 (championship team) were here. That’s what it’s all about, these kids. Hopefully we want to win, of course, but the influence you have through the years is always gonna be awesome and also the relationships you’ve developed.”

Among those at Highland to watch was Murphy’s brother-in-law, former Hope girls coach Terry Heisey.

“He’s been such a great role model at Hope,” said Heisey. “It’s a privilege to have him here.”

Reaching 800 was an anxiety-riddled event for Murphy, thanks largely to Highland which went toe-to-toe with the Huskies for three-plus quarters before Hope Christian pulled away.

“I didn’t know if I would get to 800 tonight,” he said. “I knew Highland was a really good team, and their first five is one of the most talented groups that are out there.”

In this District 6-4A matchup, both teams played at a high level for the first three quarters.

Class 4A’s ninth-ranked Hornets led early, but the Huskies used a 15-2 run in the second quarter to lead by 12 at 37-25. But Highland came roaring back in the third quarter, getting the game tied twice, at 46 and 48.

Hope Christian (14-8, 5-1) — ranked No. 3 in Class 4A behind Los Lunas and Gallup — scored the first 11 points of the fourth quarter after leading by just two, 52-50, after three.

“It’s very special,” said Huskies junior guard Grant Ulibarri, who scored a team-best 22 points in the win. “Coach is a legend.”

Ulibarri said the Huskies — their five starters were responsible for all 82 points — faced a little pressure to win under the circumstances, but that wasn’t their driving force.

“We were just really excited,” he said, “because we wanted to get this win for him.”

Murphy is trying to lead Hope Christian to a seventh consecutive state championship this season. He already has led the Huskies to 16 blue trophies.

“He has had, and is having, an amazing career,” Heisey said. “It’s staggering, the number of wins he’s been able to put up. He’s a living legend here in New Mexico.”

How, Murphy was asked, will he celebrate?

“I got a little cold,” he said, smiling. “I think I’m just gonna go to bed early.”