Muskies bounced in tourney final

Lacking a strong bench, the Muskie senior boys’ basketball team was crushed 70-38 by a potent Hammarskjold lineup in the final of the 22nd-annual McDonald’s/Tiger Tip-Off tournament in Thunder Bay last Friday.
With just nine players, including several rookies, the Muskies were thin on veterans. And that lack of experience showed against the Vikings’ full-court press.
“[Hammarskjold] stepped it up with a press and it upset our [offensive] rhythm,” noted Muskie co-coach Paul Noonan, once again behind the bench this season with Al McManaman.
“A couple of our younger players got flustered [bringing the ball up court],” he noted. “They weren’t used to the pressure and they took some bad shots.
“The best we could muster were one-on-one chances with John [Sivonen] and Evan [Woodland],” he added.
What looked to be a barn-burner, with both teams tied at 10 after the first quarter, quickly turned into a rout. Hammarskjold outscored the Muskies 21-8 in the second quarter and never looked back.
Sivonen led the black-and-gold with 17 points while Woodland netted 13.
Despite the lopsided loss in the final, the Muskies accomplished quite a bit in their first-ever trip to the McDonald’s/Tiger Tip-Off. For starters, they were the first out-of-town team to reach the final, which they did by nipping the Fort William Blue Bears 51-47 and then thrashing the host Westgate Tigers 70-44.
Sivonen was the hot shooter for the Muskies in both games–scoring 25 points against the Blue Bears and 28 versus the Tigers (including four three-pointers in the first quarter alone).
Meanwhile, the Muskie coaches got a first-hand look at just how good this season’s team is. And they came away smiling at the potential.
In fact, Noonan predicted this team has the tools to be one of the best in the area.
“We were very pleased. We saw a lot of good things with this team and we have a strong nucleus,” he noted.
That nucleus begins with Sivonen and Woodland, and is complimented nicely with veteran Doug LaBelle and rookies Jock Gemmell and Jamie Algie.
Both Gemmell and Algie give the Muskies size and athletic ability underneath the basket–a rare combination of past squads.
“[They] really rose to the occasion and played well,” praised Noonan. “They controlled the boards incredibly and they give us a new dimension that we’re not used to.
“Then, you throw in Evan and we look very strong [underneath],” he added.
But the Muskies could use a few more bodies, especially if they choose to play an up-tempo game, producing run-and-gun baskets, or a full-court press.
Noonan said they’ll try to work on their conditioning in practice, and will get more game action this weekend when they host an eight-team La Place Rendez-Vous Tip-Off tournament.
Action begins Friday with the Muskies taking on Thomas Aquinas (2:15 p.m.), followed by Grant Park versus Fort William (3:45), Dryden against Churchill (5:15 p.m.), and Atikokan versus Hillcrest (6:45).
Play continues Saturday, with the consolation final set for 5:30 p.m. and the championship game at 7.