Cold shooting costs senior hoopsters title

The Muskie senior boys’ basketball team had been on fire all season, playing a brand of wide-open, exciting basketball that produced more than its fair share of wins.
But when the black-and-gold needed a win the most, in the NorWOSSA final last Friday against the Kenora Broncos up there, the Muskie shooters suddenly went as cold as a February windchill.
The result–a surprising 51-47 loss to the Broncos in a game the Muskie coaches felt was a product of their own poor play rather than the impressive play of Kenora.
In a game with NorWOSSA gold on the line–and a berth in the NWOSSAA final–it appeared neither team wanted to win.
“Offensively, we struggled and it shows in only scoring 47 points,” co-coach Paul Noonan admitted afterwards. “We were not hitting on all cylinders. It was a disappointing game in that we felt we should have won it because we felt we had a better team.
“We lost the game more than they won it,” he added.
“Both teams were cold shooting,” echoed co-coach Al McManaman. “They were aggressive and we missed a lot of easy hoops. I don’t think they outplayed us, we just played poorly.”
The Muskies struggled all game against Kenora’s press, which caused several turnovers and forced them to try a lot of their shots with a Kenora defender in their face. And when the Muskies were allowed to get inside the lane, normally the team’s strength, they were outsized by the much taller Broncos.
Evan Woodland, the Muskies’ top gun inside, was shut down. And their other big man so to speak, Jeff Morrison, didn’t make the trip with the team. That gave the coaches one less option in their lineup, and Noonan lamented that also had a hand in their offensive woes.
“Another fresh body would have helped,” he said, noting three players failed to make the trip to Kenora for unknown reasons. “We had no room for error and we had to play a little differently.”
Kenora manhandled the Muskies in the first half and led 26-13 at the break. It was the black-and-gold’s worst offensive performance in a half all season.
That lack of scoring was compounded by the fact the Muskies were into the double bonus at the free throw line early in the second quarter but could not capitalize on their chances.
“None of our players were excelling,” said Noonan. “Even if one of our guys came through, we would have won because as bad as we played, [we] still only lost by four points.”
But the Muskies trailed by 12-14 points for most of the game, only turning their game up a notch with about three minutes to play. But while they cut Kenora’s lead to three, that was as close as they could get before the buzzer.
Chad Avis and Brad Coyle led the Muskies with 15 points each while John Sivonen added 11.
The Muskies had reached the final with a 57-31 win in the semi-finals earlier Friday against Dryden. And much like the final, the Fort struggled in the early going, with the Eagles actually leading 14-12 after the first quarter.
But while they could overcome that in their game with Dryden, they couldn’t versus Kenora.
Sivonen had a game-high 20 points to pace the Muskies to victory over the Eagles.