Jr. hoopsters clinch bye to NorWOSSA final

Lucas Punkari

After losing their NorWOSSA season-opener to the Dryden Eagles back on Sept. 22, the Muskie junior girls’ basketball team has made sure they didn’t experience that feeling again by running roughshod through the rest of their schedule.
The black-and-gold reeled off seven-straight wins, including a 38-33 victory here yesterday afternoon against those same Eagles, to finish the regular season in first place with a 7-1 record.
More importantly, they earned a bye to the NorWOSSA final next Thursday (Nov. 10) in Dryden.
The juniors were coming off a pair of wins last week, cruising to a 42-27 victory over Dryden here Tuesday before going on the road to beat the Kenora Broncos 30-20 on Thursday.
“Our defence is continuing to get stronger and stronger, and that part of our game is really working for us right now,” noted head coach Marla Knutsen.
“On offence, we’ve been moving the ball around and we’ve been able to put some of our plays that we have worked on in practice into our games, which is also nice.
“Also, I think our rebounding is where our strengths are right now as we’ve been out-rebounding our opponents big time, especially on offence,” she added.
The juniors also hosted a round-robin tournament over the weekend, where they wrapped up play with a win Saturday morning over St. Pat’s (Thunder Bay) after losing to St. Ignatius (Thunder Bay) and Rainy River on Friday.
“We faced some really stiff competition this weekend,” Knutsen said.
“Rainy River is a really solid team with an impenetrable zone, which forces us to make a lot of outside shots, and St. Ignatius is a team that uses their height to their advantage—even though our team is the tallest in our league.
“But in our last game against St. Pat’s, the girls were able to [create] a lot of turnovers and they just wouldn’t let St. Pat’s score,” she recalled.
“And we were also able to spread our shots around the floor so we had a lot more people scoring.”
But while the juniors are rolling right along, their senior sisters have been on a slide of late, heading into yesterday’s regular-season finale against Dryden on a four-game skid.
 Their latest setbacks came in two tight affairs last week, falling 36-32 to the visiting Eagles on Tuesday before being edged 19-15 by the host Kenora Broncos on Thursday.
“We were tied up for most of the game against Dryden, but in the last quarter we kind of slipped up and I think that’s what affected us,” said Grade 12 player Emily Drouin.
“Then against Kenora, we were in a really defensive game with them,” she noted.
“But once again we fell behind in the fourth quarter and we couldn’t catch back up.”
“I think in both games we knew what we needed to do, but in the fourth quarter we just fell apart,” echoed Grade 12 player Chantal Jodoin.
No matter what happened in their game yesterday, the Muskies (2-5) will finish in third place in the standings and thus will play in the semi-final game at the NorWOSSA playoffs next Thursday in Dryden.
Their opponent has yet to be decided, though, as Dryden and Kenora still are fighting it out for first place and the bye to the final.
Nevertheless, the senior Muskies were hoping to enter the playoffs on a strong note here yesterday in what will be the final game for the Grade 12 players on home court.
“It’s really important for us to win that game, and we really want to lay it all out on the court and finish up our final home game strong before the playoffs,” Jodoin stressed.
“I think it’s always better to play two games going into the finals, as that has been very good for us in the past,” noted Grade 11 player Alanna Walsh.
“I’m very confident in what our team can do, and we just need to keep our intensity out on the floor and go out on a strong note,” she reasoned.