Hoops teams gunning for playoff glory

Lucas Punkari

It’s all come down to this for the Muskie senior boys’ basketball team as they look to edge closer to the NWOSSAA showdown to determine who will head to the all-Ontarios in March.
The squad, along with their junior counterparts as well as both Muskie girls’ volleyball squads, will be travelling to Kenora on Friday for the NorWOSSA playoff.
Arguably the favourite out of the four Muskie court teams to capture NorWOSSA gold, the senior hoopsters have a bye to the final courtesy of the first-place finish during the regular season.
They’ll face the winner of the semi-final battle between the Dryden Eagles and host Broncos—with a berth at NWOSSAA on the line.
The senior boys completed an unblemished regular season with a 53-31 victory over visiting Kenora last Wednesday.
After allowing the Broncos to jump out to a 12-10 lead after the first quarter, the Muskie offence kicked into high gear in the second—outscoring the visitors 12-0 to take a lead they would never relinquish.
“At first, they [Kenora] were hitting a lot of their shots and our defence wasn’t playing very well, which allowed them to take the lead,” noted Muskie head coach Paul Noonan.
“We then switched to our 1-3-1 trap zone defence, and it shut them down completely,” he remarked.
“We were then able to regain our composure and things started to go the way that they normally do.”
Despite the win, Noonan did express concern with his team’s defence in the fourth quarter as the Broncos were able to score almost at will during garbage time.
“We’re just letting people through with our man-to-man defence,” Noonan explained.
“We need to be able to play more than just the zone defence because when you go up against the stronger teams, you need to have a strong defence in order to shut them down,” he stressed.
With that in mind, the senior Muskies headed to Roseau, Mn. on Monday for an exhibition tune-up before NorWOSSA, where they dropped a narrow 78-72 decision to the host Rams.
While he felt their man-to-man defence still needed a bit of work, Noonan thought his team preformed well against Roseau.
“We only had seven players with us, and once one of our players fouled out, that dropped us down to six guys and they [Roseau] really went on the offensive,” Noonan recalled.
“It was a great tune-up, though, for NorWOSSA this weekend, and we were very happy to have played against them [the Rams] because they’re a tough team,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Muskie junior boys are starting to build some momentum heading into the NorWOSSA playoffs, which will see them play host Kenora in the semi-final at 10 a.m. on Friday.
After going winless for most of the season, the Muskies knocked off Kenora on Feb. 3 for their first win, then earned their first home-court victory last Wednesday over those same Broncos by a 35-25 score.
“We’re the type of team that has to work hard from the time the ball is thrown up into the air until the last buzzer sounds,” coach Greg Ste. Croix stressed.
“We’ve done a much better job in doing that as of late, and we’ve been consistent in all four quarters, which shows in the result,” he added.
While his team may not be considered a serious threat heading into Friday, Ste. Croix feels his improved squad could surprise the rest of the NorWOSSA field.
“Anything can happen come playoff time,” he reasoned.
“We just need to make sure that we come out sharp and work really hard in practice, which will hopefully transfer into the games for us.”
Dryden will meet the winner between Fort High and Kenora in the junior boys final later Friday.