Juniors super in striking NorWOSSA gold

Dan Falloon

The secret to NorWOSSA success for the Muskie junior court teams? Play a pair of games.
Both the boys’ volleyball and girls’ basketball teams had finished second to the Dryden Eagles at the end of the regular season, meaning they had to win a morning semi-final in order to advance to the afternoon final.
The extra work did both teams good.
After sweeping Kenora 3-0 in the semi-final (25-19, 25-21, and 27-25), the junior spikers beat Dryden 3-1 (20-25, 25-19, 25-23, and 25-19) in the final to earn NorWOSSA goal here yesterday.
The junior hoopsters, meanwhile, beat the Eagles 36-29 after shutting down Kenora 21-15 in the earlier semi-final.
Alanna Walsh led the Muskies with nine points in the final while Keira Lindgren and Sarah Glover each chipped in six apiece.
The game was a wild back-and-forth affair. The Muskies got out to a 9-7 first-half lead, but then saw the Eagles reel off 12-straight points to find themselves trailing 19-9.
That’s when coach Dan Bird said he unveiled a new press, getting the team a pair of buckets to cut the halftime deficit to 19-13.
Fort High took control from there, notching the first 10 points of the second half to grab a 23-19 lead.
The black-and-gold outscored Dryden 18-4 in the quarter, then held on for their second-straight title.
“Our new press paid off in both games,” said Bird.
“In the second game, once we got our press established, that’s when we made our comeback.
“Dryden’s a good team but when the girls realized that they could come back that quick, they knew that what we practised, if they did it right, would give us a good chance to win,” Bird added.
The junior volleyball squad, meanwhile, responded well after coughing up an early lead in the opening set in the final against Dryden.
Fort High rallied for eight-straight points to take a 15-9 lead in the second set, which they went on to win 25-9.
In the third set, Dryden rallied nearly every time the Muskies forged ahead, crawling back from deficits of 9-3 and 18-13 to eventually knot the set at 22.
But Fort High overcame and won 25-23.
The black-and-gold then followed a similar formula in the fourth and final set, going up 11-3 before Dryden took six-consecutive points.
The Muskies got up 17-12, but then Dryden evened things at 18.
However, with the taste of success in their mouths, the Muskies went 7-1 down the stretch to win Fort High’s first junior boys’ volleyball title since 2001-02.
“They played the way that I knew they could play,” enthused coach John Gibson.
“They came out, they attacked.
“A couple times in games where they had a few mental errors, they were able to rally back from it and continue to play aggressive and continue to hit the ball,” he noted.
While the bye tripped up Dryden in both junior finals yesterday, the extra rest didn’t prove to be a winning formula for the senior Muskie girls’ basketball team, either.
The game followed a similar script to the junior game, though without the same ending.
Fort High took an early 6-4 lead, but Dryden then went on a 15-3 run to seize a 19-9 lead.
After the Muskies pulled to within 21-18 at the half, their defence came up big in the third quarter as the offence chipped in a few points to put the Muskies up 26-25 with the final quarter to go.
But the Eagles, who had beaten Kenora earlier in the semi-final, were determined, jumping out to a 37-31 lead with 2:30 to play.
Although Fort High put up five points in the following two minutes, the team was unable to find one extra basket to fall 38-36.
Chelsea Hill led the Muskies with 11 points while Sara Roach had eight and Erika Moffitt seven.
Morgan Church was the thorn in the Muskies’ side scoring 20 points for Dryden.
Lastly, the senior boys’ volleyball team was the only Muskie squad that didn’t experience finals excitement as they were swept 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, and 25-16) by Kenora in the semi-final.
The Broncos later fell to the Eagles in three-straight sets in the final, making them the lone top seed to go home with a trophy yesterday.