Noonan upbeat after home tourney

A fourth-place finish in a six-team tournament would have most pondering what went wrong. But Muskie senior boys’ basketball coach Paul Noonan prefers the route of positivism over pessimism.
“I think it was a good tournament overall,” Noonan said after his squad posted a 1-2 record, with an exhibition win thrown in for good measure, at their annual home tournament last weekend.
“We had a super game Thursday night [a 59-55 win over the Lake of the Woods Bears from Baudette] where we looked like we were in mid-season form,” he noted.
“And we got to play two teams [the Hillcrest Colts and the tournament champion Hammarskjold Vikings] that we have a very good chance of facing when we get to NWOSSAA.
“You want that early-season look against teams like that.
“The only problem we have is turning the ball over too much,” Noonan added. “But those are early-season mistakes, when you’re uncertain of your offence and our plays.
“The guys have to get used to one another, and not force the ball so much.”
The Muskies seemed to have a firm handle on the high-speed offence implemented by Noonan and co-coach Mike Busch against the Bears, who were unable to be an official seventh team in the tourney because of a state rule limiting them to one game per day.
Fort High had the Bears back on their paws in the first half, leading 14-11 after one and 31-23 at the half. Kevin Gemmell played Bear tamer in the opening two quarters, scorching Lake of the Woods for 19 points on his way to a game-high 25.
The Bears came out snarling in the third, going on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to two. Had it not been for the scoring and rebounding of first-year forward Mark Buist (eight points for the game), Lake of the Woods might very well have taken the lead instead of trailing 41-38 after three.
Then with the game tied at 45-45, Fort High pulled off a 10-2 run that stretched their lead to eight. But the Bears refused to hibernate, charging back to make it 55-53 with 1:10 to play.
But Gemmell and Andrew Mueller hit clutch free throws in the final minute while the Bears hit only one of four shots from the floor in that time to come up just short.
Adano Lund had 21 points to pace Lake of the Woods while Dustin Anderson added 12.
The offence was far more sporadic in the Muskies’ next outing, but six points in the final 56 seconds was enough to give the black-and-gold a narrow 35-34 win over the Nipigon-Red Rock Lakers on Friday afternoon in their first game that counted in the standings.
The Lakers frustrated the Muskies for the entire first half, building a 20-14 lead at the break. Then they extended the advantage to 29-20 before the Muskies got the wake-up call with an 8-0 run to end the third quarter to draw within one.
The fourth quarter was one missed shot after another for both sides, with neither team hitting a field goal in the first seven minutes.
But with the Lakers up 33-29, Gemmell drove the baseline for a lay-up to make it a two-point game. Then following a successful free throw by Nipigon-Red Rock’s Steve Faust, Andrew George tipped in a rebound after some fierce work on the offensive glass by the Muskies to make it 34-33 with 27 seconds left.
Steve Carrothers subsequently missed two foul shots for the Lakers.
On the rebound of the second miss, Gemmell shed his usual role as wide receiver for the Muskie football team and threw a perfect long bomb downcourt to Anwar Chabloui, who sank the lay-up for his only points of the game to put Fort High in front with 12 seconds to go.
Faust then was nailed for travelling with 4.3 seconds left, and Gemmell drew two fouls after that to keep the ball out of the Lakers’ hands until the final buzzer.
< *c>Conquering Colts
Friday night’s match-up against Hillcrest—the top-ranked team in Thunder Bay—was the Muskies’ first chance this young season to see how they measured up against the best from the big city.
The locals answered the bell in the first half, and actually led 23-20 at half-time. But the Colts exploded from the gate in the second half, outscoring the Muskies 38-27 over the final two quarters to win 58-50.
Thomas Gillespie led the Colts with 18 points while Josh Goodheart chipped in 12. Gemmell paced the Muskies with 13 while Cullan McGinnis had 11.
Then in their finale against Hammarskjold, Fort High was plagued with bad passing and unconverted inside shots, but still only trailed 35-30 at the half.
A 16-6 third quarter in the Muskies’ favour had them thinking upset heading into the fourth up 46-41. But Hammarskjold were too tough to contain, snatching the lead back with a 6-0 run to start the fourth, then using a dynamic inside game to manufacture a 59-54 win.
Joel Paskewich had 21 points for the Vikings while Jarad McKee added 13. Larry Pham netted 16 in a losing cause for the Muskies, with McGinnis adding 11 and Gemmell being held to just nine on three three-pointers.
Hammarskjold and Hillcrest both finished the tournament with 3-0 records, but Hammarskjold’s +64 mark in the points for and against category gave them the nod over Hillcrest (+45).
Nipigon-Red Rock finished third at 2-1, followed by the Muskies. The Dryden Eagles and Kenora Broncos (both 0-3) rounded out the standings.
The Muskie senior and junior boys’ hoops squads open their NorWOSSA seasons tomorrow in Kenora. Then right after their game, the seniors will get back on the road and play in Brandon that evening to open a weekend tournament there.
The Muskies’ next home games are slated Jan. 8 against the Broncos.