Mustangs christen new gym by claiming tourney crown

Joey Payeur

They weren’t expecting any housewarming gifts from their visitors.
But the Robert Moore Mustangs’ Grade 8 boys’ basketball team made sure they reclaimed a souvenir to remember a historic day all the same.
The host Mustangs edged the St. Francis Sentinels 10-6 on Saturday in the gold-medal game of the annual Jim Oster Invitational—the first tournament of any sport to be played in the gymnasium at the newly-built Robert Moore School.
The building itself, built across the playground behind the original school, opened in September. But the gym was not completed until late November, making Saturday the first opportunity for inter-school athletic battles to be waged on its hardwood.
The Mustangs, who managed a silver-medal performance at the Crossroads Tornadoes tournament in Devlin to open the season two weeks earlier (despite having only four players at its disposal), was able to field a full five-man squad plus substitutes this time around.
The result was a perfect 3-0 mark to capture top spot in Pool ‘B.’
The Mustangs then continued their stellar play in the final to take back the title from the defending tourney and regional champion Sentinels, who failed to win gold for the first time in the last four events they have entered after sweeping all three tourneys they played in last season.
The combination of towering centre Alex Gustafson’s domination in the rebounding department, combined with the shooting of forward Thomas Onichuk and the play-making of speedy point guard Kevin Metke, enabled Robert Moore to grab a 6-4 lead at half-time against St. Francis.
The Mustangs’ trio, along with the fine defensive help provided by the rest of the roster, held the potent Sentinels to a single two-point basket in the second half while hitting twice from the field themselves to seal the victory
St. Francis, who had skipped the Crossroads tourney due to a lack of players because of hockey commitments, was a question mark entering last Saturday’s tournament after having had only one practice so far this season with all team members present.
But a fortunate draw as a member of Pool ‘A’ saw the Sentinels ease into the day with a 15-2 victory over the Mustangs’ Grade 7 squad, which was called into action after a sixth Grade 8 team from the district was not available to even out the two pools.
St. Francis then had all guns blazing against Our Lady of the Way in a 32-3 romp in their second outing.
With first place in Pool ‘A’ on the line, St. Francis then engaged in a defensive battle with Crossroads, holding a 1-0 lead at the break.
The Sentinels’ offence finally broke through in the second half en route to a 9-2 victory over the Tornadoes.
Crossroads bounced back from its opening loss to the Grade 8 Mustangs by edging the Grade 7 squad 12-8 margin before being relegated to the bronze-medal game by St. Francis.
In the tussle for third place against Sturgeon Creek, the two teams rode an emotional roller-coaster, with the lead changing hands several times.
With eight seconds to play, forward Joey Angus rattled in a short jump shot to give Crossroads a one-point advantage.
When the Sturgeons’ last desperation shot fell short, the Tornadoes celebrated a thrilling 12-11 victory.
Sturgeon Creek had finished second in Pool ‘B’ with a 2-1 record.
The Sturgeons sandwiched a 23-2 rout over Our Lady of the Way and a 21-8 hammering of the Grade 7 Mustangs around the loss to the Grade 8 Mustangs.
In the fifth-place final, a pair of winless teams put on perhaps the most exciting show of the day.
The Voyageurs looked to have the game won before the Grade 7 Mustangs drained a close-in shot a heartbeat before the buzzer on their last of back-to-back-to-back shot opportunities in the paint to knot the game 8-8 and set up a dramatic two-minute overtime.
Both teams gave no quarter on defence throughout the extra session until Kurt Desserre’s last-minute bucket proved to be the difference in a 10-8 win for Our Lady of the Way.
The Voyageurs, Sturgeons, and Tornadoes will be part of the field at the Rainy River District Athletic Association Boys West Regionals at Sturgeon Creek School tomorrow.
The RRDAA regional championship is set for Feb. 26 at either Fort High or Robert Moore School.