NorWOSSA court sports playoff system finalized

The Muskie court teams will continue to play a modified league schedule against ‘A’ squads until the playoffs, when they’ll face either Dryden or Kenora for the NorWOSSA crown.
“The decision was to keep the league the way it is, and have a ‘south’ and a ‘north’ division,” Fort High athletic director Rick Wiedenhoeft noted last Thursday, a day after a league meeting in Dryden.
The Muskies will continue playing against ‘A’ opponents Rainy River, Whitefish Bay, Atikokan, Thomas Aquinas (Kenora), and Pelican Falls in the “South” division while the “North” division will be made up of ‘AA’ schools Kenora (Beaver Brae) and Dryden, and ‘A’ schools from Ignace, Sioux Lookout, and Red Lake.
But come playoff time, the ‘A’ schools will play off for their league title while the Muskies will square off against either Dryden and Kenora here Nov. 20.
(Because the Fort has been playing a schedule since the start of the season, it was decided to give the Muskies a bye into the final while Kenora and Dryden met in the semi-final).
“The teams from the north gave us a lot of consideration because we had been playing from the start,” noted Fort High vice-principal Ian Simpson. “They didn’t try to dictate a schedule to us. They said to us ‘What would you like to see?’
“The playoff structure is more than fair to our kids,” he stressed.
And because of stalled contract talks between high school teachers and the school board in Thunder Bay and the North Shore, it’s very likely there will be no NWOSSAA playoffs this year. That means both the Muskie senior boys’ volleyball and senior girls’ basketball teams could advance to the all-Ontarios by winning one match.
But Wiedenhoeft warned that doesn’t mean Fort High will be sending these teams directly to OFSAA.
“One of the reasons that were cautious is that we don’t want to send a team and have them get blown out,” noted Wiedenhoeft, who has taken several teams to the all-Ontarios in recent years. “We want to make sure that they’ve earned the right to go.”
Still, Wiedenhoeft said the situation has changed somewhat now that Dryden and Kenora are back in the picture instead of the Muskies just going up against ‘A’ schools.
“We may re-assess the situation and decide whether we will pursue sending a team down there as long as they have legitimately earned a right to go,” he added.
“I would say we would reserve judgment on sending teams to OFSAA until the dust has cleared,” echoed Simpson. “We will assess our talent against ‘AA’ schools and then assess how we would do against the Thunder Bay teams.
“We’ll meet with all of our stakeholders and then make a decision,” he said.
Gord McCabe and Kent Kowalski, who co-coach the senior girls’ basketball squad, had expressed concern whether it was legitimate to send their team to OFSAA without having competed against Kenora and Dryden, Wiedenhoeft said.
“But now they’ll have a couple of exhibition games against them and a playoff game so we’ll just have to see,” he noted.
Meanwhile, both Simpson and Wiedenhoeft said there’s no question the Muskie girls’ basketball program, specifically the juniors, suffered from the lack of quality opponents so far this season.
“I feel sorry for the junior and senior girls but I do feel their seasons have been bolstered by playing the exhibition games and tournaments,” said Wiedenhoeft. “Volleyball had more than adequate competition against some good teams.”
Despite the lack of consistency with this year’s schedule, Simpson felt everyone involved–teachers, players, parents, and administration–did a more than adequate job making the most of a very difficult situation.
“I really think we made the most of a very bad situation given what happened,” he said. “We came up with what we thought was the best schedule possible.
“We put a good schedule together and . . . some coaches expressed some pleasure in the opportunity to play new schools and meet new people,” he added. “Some said it was a great experience.”