Senior Basketball

If all it takes to drop your first game of the season is to lose two of your key players, face an opposing player with a hot hand, and be taken to three overtime periods, then consider the Muskie senior boys’ basketball team in good spirits after a busy week of league and tournament action.
The boys dropped a 73-68 decision to the Fort William Collegiate Institute Blue Bears in triple overtime here Saturday to finish in second place in the Muskie Invitational tournament.
They earlier had beaten Churchill 43-33 and Nip-Rock 51-43 in the round-robin affair.
The Blue Bears took top spot with a 3-0 record.
“It’s an easy way to get gray hairs, that’s for sure,” Muskie co-coach Mike Busch said of the close contest. “I was really proud of how our guys fought back.”
Forward Jamie Algie’s three-point play at 5:27 of the fourth quarter brought the Muskies back from a 14-point halftime deficit to take their first lead at 39-37. A sloppy quarter of play ended with both teams knotted at 45-45.
But then Graham McIntyre started to take over. The FWCI guard scored 19 of his game-high 28 points in the extra frames, including back-to-back layups that gave his team a 51-48 lead with 80 seconds to go in the first overtime.
Then with eight seconds left, Travis Derkson nailed a three from the left baseline to tie the game.
The second overtime belonged to the Muskies as Josh McMahon, Dan Poperechny, and Derkson gave the home team a five-point lead. But this time it was the Blue Bears who battled back, tying the game on McIntyre’s three-pointer with 18 ticks on the clock.
“We had a five-point lead [in the second overtime] and just couldn’t hang on to the ball,” noted Muskie co-coach Paul Noonan
And that momentum carried over into the third overtime as FWCI jumped out to an early five-point lead and never looked back.
“We’re disappointed we lost, but we had guys like Josh step up and play well,” said Busch. “Our turnovers have been our Achilles heel so far.
“We don’t get a lot of pressuring defence in our league so it’s nice to get that with these tournaments,” he added.
The Muskies were down for most of the first half as the Blue Bears continually met their forwards at half-court to thwart any fast break attempts.
Starting forward Jock Gemmell then went down with a sprained right ankle in the second quarter to hurt an already light bench as sixth-man Faical Cheblaoui missed the game due to personal commitments.
But a McMahon three-pointer at 5:43 sparked the Muskies to a 16-4 run to cut the lead to five points entering the final quarter.
Derkson and McMahon led the Muskies with 15 points apiece, including three three-pointers each.
In their game against Churchill, Keith McKay scored 11, followed by Algie (10) and Derkson (nine).
The Muskies then used their size advantage against a small but quick Nip-Rock team. Algie dropped 28 points in that one while Gemmell added 10.
Dryden and Kenora also competed in the tournament.
For the Blue Bears, a win against the highly-touted Muskies was more important as they sit at 2-2 in SSSAA play so far this season.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster to beat the NWOSSAA champions. It’s great for our team to get a look at some other teams,” said FWCI head coach Al McLean.
While the Muskies had wanted some of Thunder Bay’s tougher teams, including Hillcrest (4-0) and Hammarskjold (3-1) to compete here, losing to a .500 team isn’t enough to worry the champs—just yet.
“If it was later in the season, I’d be more concerned. But this is early in the season. We’re still making some mental mistakes,” noted Busch.
The Muskies are 2-0 in NorWOSSA play so far, having beaten host Dryden 58-40 and visiting Kenora 61-44 last week. They’ll face the Broncos up there tomorrow before the Christmas break.
“We won four games [overall] and took the last one to three overtimes. It’s still a great way to start [the season],” said Noonan.