Church was not in session, at least as far as the Muskie junior girls’ basketball team was concerned.
The Muskies frustrated Morgan Church, the Dryden Eagles’ leading scorer, for most of the game and used overwhelming first- and third-quarter performances to emerge with a 36-25 victory in the NorWOSSA final last Thursday in Kenora.
The win was sweet revenge for Fort High, which let the league title elude its grasp in the dying stages of last year’s final against Dryden.
“The Grade 10s showed a lot of leadership on the floor,” said Muskie coach Dan Bird. “They took control of the game once we got the lead.
“The defence was our strength,” he added. “They frustrated the Eagles by keying on their two best players.”
Those two would be Church, who had only two points through three quarters and scored the rest of her eight points in the game in the last minute-and-a-half with the game already decided, and Emilie Gardam, who only had six points through three quarters before finishing with a team-high 11.
“In Dryden’s semi-final against Kenora, there was a lot of running up and down and not much defence being played,” noted Bird, whose team had the bye to the final by virtue of finishing in first place during regular season.
“Anytime you have to play two games in a day, it has to wear you down,” he reasoned.
“When they went up against our ‘2-3’ zone defence, they had to work hard to get anywhere.”
Erika Moffitt topped the Muskie scorers with 12 points while Chantal Jodoin, the team’s leading scorer over the regular season, came through with 11.
The offence was rolling early for the Muskies as they blasted out to a 12-4 lead after the first quarter.
“We had a play right off the tip-off where we should have scored,” recalled Bird.
“But even though we missed, we looked like we were ready to play.”
Dryden cut the lead to 15-10 by halftime, but another 9-2 run in the third quarter gave the black-and-gold a 12-point cushion entering the fourth, which they maintained late in the game to allow Bird to rotate in his bench players comfortably.
“We were really patient with the ball,” said Bird, whose team was a solid 8-for-13 from the foul line and who will have as many as eight players eligible to return to the junior squad next season.
“We could have scored 50 [points] if you include the easy shots we missed because we probably had a little too much adrenalin,” he added.
“Things really worked well for us.”