Hoops squads tune up for seasons

Jamie Mountain

It’s all systems go for the Muskie senior and junior boys’ basketball teams.
Both teams were able to get in some game action recently in order to fine-tune their skills ahead of their NorWOSSA regular-season opener next Tuesday (Dec. 4) against the host Kenora Broncos.
The seniors hosted the Rainy River Owls on Friday afternoon in exhibition action, where they rolled to a 82-37 romp.
The black-and-gold led 36-15 at halftime before outscoring the Owls 46-22 the rest of the way.
It was a good tune-up game for a squad that would like to avenge last year’s loss in the NorWOSSA final to the Dryden Eagles by going undefeated this time around.
“We always like to go 8-0 in NorWOSSA,” said Muskie co-coach Greg Ste. Croix, who again is coaching the squad alongside Bryce Coyle.
“We want to win NorWOSSA and we want to challenge for NWOSSAA.
“Early in the season, I think just playing within ourselves, focusing first on our defence and pushing the ball, will lead us to success,” he added.
The Muskies feature just three returning players this season in Ben Smith, Ben Larson, and Kobi Ward.
Eight players have moved up to the senior ranks, including Jacob Albright, Ayden Gushulak, Sean Huziak, Kaden Kocuiba, Wyatt Richards, Dominic States, Mike Vanderaa, and Joel Ottertail.
“They bring some youthful energy, which is always a plus,” Ste. Croix said of his new players.
“And with only three returnees, they’re gonna have to fill a little bit bigger shoes.
“For the returning players, they’re gonna have to supply a big leadership role both on and off the floor,” he stressed.
As for the junior squad, it was in Dryden on Friday and Saturday for an exhibition tournament hosted by the Eagles.
The Muskies compiled a 3-2 record at the tourney, although it was used to evaluate the players rather than being focused on the results.
“We haven’t selected our team yet,” Muskie co-coach Nicole Clarke said Sunday evening.
“We brought everyone that made the first cut to the tournament and the team roster will be posted on Tuesday morning,” she noted.
“The only returnees are Jordan Bazylewski and Brett Schram.”
Fort High opened tourney play Friday with a narrow 48-46 win over the host Eagles but then were routed 61-41 by the much taller Sioux Lookout Warriors.
The Muskies then ended the day with a 52-27 romp over the Pelican Falls Wolverines ‘B’ team.
Saturday’s action saw the black-and-gold roll to a 78-24 thumping of the Pelicans’ ‘A’ squad before capping tourney play with a tight 66-63 loss to the Atikokan Voyageurs.
It was an intense game with lots of hustle.
“The tournament was a learning experience for our young players,” said Clarke. “It also allowed us to reflect on what we have to work on as a team prior to our regular-season opener.
“Our last game of the tournament against Atikokan was intense to the final buzzer and the kids had a lot of fun,” she added.
The Muskies head into this season as the defending NorWOSSA champs but a new roster will have to make its own mark.
But Clarke doesn’t think that will be too much of an issue.
“I think we will be successful this season,” she predicted. “We have a young team with a lot of potential.
“In terms of goals for the season, a [NorWOSSA] gold medal is always part of the plan,” she added.