Jr. girls cap off ‘golden’ season

Lucas Punkari

Having been the class of the NorWOSSA junior girls’ basketball league throughout the regular season, and earning a bye to the final in the process, the Muskies gave one last taste of why they were the best in the three-team loop.
The black-and-gold captured NorWOSSA gold in convincing fashion last Thursday in Dryden, routing the Kenora Broncos 28-4 in the league final.
Co-coaches Marla Knutsen and Sarah Faragher obviously were pleased that the squad was able to come out on top, but they also were a bit surprised that the final score ended up being so lopsided.
“Going into the game, I had a feeling that we could beat them but I didn’t think it was going to be by that much,” Knutsen admitted.
“That was definitely something I wasn’t expecting, especially for it being a championship game,” echoed Faragher.
“Kenora had a really close battle with Dryden in the semi-finals [that morning], so I was expecting another tight game for the finals but that didn’t happen.
“I think it was just a mix of us being totally on our game and they [Kenora] didn’t have their best game,” she reasoned.
Both coaches believed a key factor was the fact that many aspects of the game they had been working on throughout the season finally came together in their final contest.
“It seemed the girls were just executing on everything that we had been working on all year,” Knutsen enthused.
“Kenora was also making a lot of simple mistakes, as well, and our girls were able to get to the ball whenever that happened,” she added.
“Leading into the playoffs, we were adding a new aspect to our game for the finals and our new half-court zone trap definitely proved to be effective,” noted Faragher.
“In fact, it proved to be so effective that we didn’t have to use much full-court pressure during the game, and our girls did an excellent job of preventing any penetration inside our three-point line,” she explained.
Having won their last eight NorWOSSA games after losing their season-opener to the Dryden Eagles back on Sept. 22, the progression by the junior Muskies into an unstoppable force was one that the coaches were pleased to see.
“Every game the girls got better and whenever we put something new into our strategy, the girls just seemed to manage it,” Knutsen said.
“No matter what we taught them in practice, the girls mastered it right away and as a coach that is all you can really ask for.
“We have come a long way from the start of the season, that’s for sure,” she smiled.
But while the junior hoopsters were basking in the glow of their championship performance, the senior Muskies saw their season come to an unsatisfactory close last Thursday in Dryden as they fell 29-13 to the Kenora Broncos in semi-final action.
“Things were looking good early on as we were working the ball inside on Kenora, which is what we had practised earlier in the week,” noted head coach Dan Bird.
“But as the game wore on, we went away from that and we also made some costly turnovers, which gave the momentum right back to Kenora as they were able to score on those plays.
“While it was unforced errors that led to us losing that game, I have to give Kenora credit for playing with the intensity that they did for all four quarters,” Bird added.
Kenora would end up losing 47-32 to Dryden in the final.
The senior Muskies ended up finishing with a 2-7 record in NorWOSSA play, which was something Bird himself hadn’t envisioned when the team began the season back in September.
“I felt that we had a good enough squad that we should have been in the gold-medal game, for sure,” he stressed.
“Our senior players did carry us, for the most part, throughout the season, but unfortunately our scoring just didn’t pan out during the games.
“When we were in practice, we would be shooting lights out and the scoring was happening, and we definitely had the players who can score those points, but for some reason we just struggled during the games,” Bird sighed.