Another narrow loss for Muskie hoopsters

Never seen the look of frustration? Nor the eyes of disappointment?
You could have seen both on the face of Anwar Cheblaoui after the Muskie senior boys’ basketball team fell in overtime to the Dryden Eagles here last Thursday afternoon in a game they wanted, had, and then lost.
“This is the second game we’ve been really close [the first was a 44-43 loss against Kenora to start the season] and at the end with three minutes left, we just turned it over,” lamented Cheblaoui, who had netted 12 points in a losing effort.
Even more dejecting for the black-and-gold was the fact the loss kept them winless in NorWOSSA play through six games—and with only two to go before the playoffs.
“Frustration is outweighing disappointment right now because we’re not where we should be in the season,” said Scott Galusha, who drained 11 points against Dryden.
“Something’s not clicking right, but it’s starting to come together now,” he added.
After a wild first quarter in which the Muskies led 15-13, both teams slowed the pace to the point of agonizing boredom. There was little to cheer about as neither team played impressive basketball in a quarter that saw the Muskies score just four points to the Eagles’ 11.
But the hosts bounced back to start the third quarter as they were able to mix a strong presence underneath the basket with a calculating performance on the outside.
“I like to try and play really big down-low, and Dryden isn’t really a big team [so] I can push them around quite a bit,” laughed Galusha like a giant about to stomp on a village.
The Muskies also got a boost from Fraser Gibson, Thomas Edwards, and Kyle Perrott as their presence underneath provided relief to their over-worked guards to cut the Eagles’ lead to 30-28 at the end of the quarter.
“Kyle and Fraser have some pretty good inside moves. [But] we’re not using them enough and our guards have got to see more of that,” Galusha stressed.
The fourth quarter began with a Muskie run that saw them match baskets with the Eagles to leave the game tied at 37-37 with 4:27 to go.
“Think we’ll finish this one?” Cheblaoui asked during a time-out, referring to the Muskies not being able to finish that season-opening 44-43 loss to Kenora.
Things looked good as Cheblaoui’s three-pointer from the top of the key gave the Muskies a 44-39 lead—one that seemed to be comfortable as they looked up to the scoreboard to see 2:30 on the clock and began to smile during a time-out.
But as the seconds ticked down, the Eagles slowly chipped away at the Muskies’ lead and, in turn, switched their grins to scowls.
With the Muskies up 44-41, Galusha fouled an Eagle with 36.8 seconds left. The Dryden player made both shots.
The Muskies turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass, then Edwards was charged with a foul—creating a bonus situation for the Eagles.
The Eagle player missed at the free-throw line, but collected the rebound and call a time-out with 13.8 seconds to go.
That’s where things got interesting.
Off the inbounds pass, Dryden’s Mike Hanson collected the ball outside of the arc and cut to the basket. He used a hop-jump to step into the lane, which seemed like a move Kobe Bryant would use (hence a travel), but the Muskies were charged with a foul during the drive.
“I didn’t like the ref’s calls,” Cheblaoui said.
Hanson would sink one of two to tie the game at 44-44. Then when Craig McTavish pulled down the rebound and called a time-out, the Muskies found themselves with 3.3 seconds left in which to win the game.
The inbounds pass went to Cheblaoui, who came off a back screen to collect the ball near half-court, stutter-stepped to the right side, and drove hard to find himself with a 20-foot side-shifting jumper with a chance to win it.
The result? An airball on an extremely difficult shot.
“Let’s just work the offence like we’ve been doing,” co-coach Paul Noonan said before the Muskies stepped back onto the court for a four-minute overtime frame.
But the Muskies went right to their coach’s left as they scored only one basket in the extra frame while the Eagles, led by the 20-point performance of Hanson, had 12 points to make the final 56-46.
“It’s frustrating enough where I hope our guys see that we, by inexperience and mental errors, threw that game away,” said co-coach Al McManaman.
“But one thing I want them to take away is that we’ve lost close ones to Dryden and Kenora a couple of times.
“We have to put it all together for the whole game, then we will win,” McManaman added.
Usually in sports, when a team that should have won in regulation time gets pushed into overtime, the other team—because of a boost in confidence and adrenaline—always seems to pull out the win.
That seemed to be the case here last Thursday, too.
“I think they folded the tent very quickly and we’re just not doing the right thing at the right time,” said McManaman. “I think they were down and they thought they had the game and they got frustrated, so prophecy states, they just gave up.”
Due to exams, the Muskies’ next game won’t come until Feb. 10 when they will play Dryden again up there.
But with only two games left until the playoffs, the Muskies—if they hope to have any real chance of doing anything come the post-season—must bring zealous efforts to those encounters to displace a lack of confidence, which seems to be a common trait among the players.
“It would be big, and I really want to win before we go to the playoffs so we have some confidence so we can believe we can win a game down there,” said Cheblaoui.
“I’m pretty down, though,” he admitted. “We’ve got to put more of an effort out.”
On the other hand, the Muskie junior boys’ basketball team improved their NorWOSSA record to 2-4 record thanks to a 49-26 win over the Dryden Eagles here last Thursday.
High scorers for the Muskies were Joey Therriault with 11 points, followed by Garnet Cornell (10) and Scott Gurski (six).