Senior hoopsters won’t be resting on laurels in final

Dan Falloon

If all goes as expected, the Muskie senior girls’ basketball team knows it is in for a tough go at the NorWOSSA playoffs being held here today (Nov. 10).
The squad, which went 7-1 during the regular season to earn a bye to the league final, acknowledges they can take nothing for granted.
Coach Ian Simpson said he anticipates meeting Dryden in the final, which is slated for 5:30 p.m. in the large gym at Fort High.
The Eagles handed the black-and-gold their only loss of the regular season—a 28-23 setback in Dryden back on Oct. 12—and then gave them all they could handle in a 34-28 Muskie win in the season finale here last Thursday (Nov. 4).
“We had a tough game,” Simpson admitted. “We’re certainly going to have to be at our best if we’re going to beat Dryden in the final, that’s for sure.
“They did a lot of things really well,” he noted. “They got inside our defence for rebounding opportunities.
“They passed the ball really well, and they put a lot of good pressure on us and made us turn over the ball a few times.
“We’ve got to work on those things between now and next Wednesday [today],” Simpson stressed.
Still, Simpson figured a top-notch performance by the Muskies should carry the day against Dryden.
“We’re certainly not taking Dryden lightly and we have no reason to,” he remarked.
“We have to prepare to our best ability to play Dryden. They’re going to be tough.
“[But] I’m confident that we can have a good game, and if we play our best, we’ve got a good chance,” he added.
Although Simpson warned against getting cocky, the Muskies did win three of their four regular-season meetings with the Eagles and generally looked good doing it.
Even though last Thursday’s win here was a little tighter than Simpson would have liked, he drew a number of positives.
“We were handling the full-court press better than we have in the past,” he noted. “We rebounded reasonably well.
“But on the offensive end, we can still do better there,” he stressed. “We put ourselves in an opportunity for a lot of lay-ups that we actually missed.
“But at least we got the lay-ups, and hopefully we can work on that.
“If our kids make those lay-ups, which they usually do, then that’ll be a big help,” Simpson said.
While Simpson expects to meet the Eagles in today’s final, there’s always the possibility Kenora could pull off an upset.
He recalled that’s exactly what happened last year in the exact same situation, but feels Dryden is just that much stronger and will avoid making the same mistakes twice.
Fort High dumped the Broncos 28-12 in last year’s final.
“I don’t think that that will happen this year,” he conceded. “I think if we look at the way things have gone all year, Dryden should beat Kenora, and we’ll end up playing Dryden in the final.
“You never know,” he added. “You’ve just got to win one game, and you can’t count anybody out at any given time.”
Should the Broncos repeat last year’s showing against Dryden, Simpson feels his squad would be in a favourable match-up in the final based on Kenora’s defence.
“They [Kenora] play a zone defence, where Dryden plays a pressure man-to-man,” he explained.
“Our kids would do better against a zone defence.”
Simpson also is encouraged that two of his top scorers are rookies who have picked up on the increase in quality over the junior level.
“Chantal Jodoin and Erika Moffitt, two first-year seniors, played well for us, did a good job,” he lauded.
“They’ve improved dramatically from the start of the year.
“They rebound, and offensively they’re always a threat,” he added.
However, there still is some veteran leadership on both sides of the ball.
“Chelsea Hill provided a lot of leadership in the second half [against Dryden],” Simpson noted. “It was tied at the half, but then she came along and rebounded well and scored some key points for us.
“Sara Roach plays solid defence for us, game in and game out,” he added. “She comes up with a lot of steals and puts a lot of pressure on the other team’s offence on a consistent basis.
“She just works hard game after game.”
Simpson also singled out Jolene Stahn and Jennifer McDowell as he knows he’ll get a fine performance from the pair each time out.
Meanwhile, the Muskies were 4-0 on their home court this season and Simpson expects all of the benefits associated with playing at home only should contribute to the Muskies’ advantage.
“That’s a huge bonus,” he stressed. “They’ll be playing in front of their own fans in their own gym.
“They don’t have to travel.
“All of those things are going to help us, but that doesn’t mean to say that we can get overconfident,” Simpson warned. “I’ve seen the home team lose many times in the final before.”
And road teams certainly can come in and give Fort High a run for its money, meaning a slip-up here or there could dash the Muskies’ hopes of repeating as NorWOSSA champs.
“Dryden certainly didn’t come in here and roll over and play dead [on Thursday],” he noted. “They stretched us about as far as I’d like to be stretched.
“It’ll be another game like that,” he figured. “It’s going to be a battle.”
All in all, Simpson is just excited for the chance to play for all the marbles, noting he’ll still be proud even if the Muskies come up short.
“It’s going to be an exciting day. We’re looking forward to it,” he enthused.
“Hopefully, we’re moving forward with confidence, but not overconfidence.
“I tell the girls before every game, if they go out and play their best, no matter what the scoresheet says, they’re going to be winners,” he continued.
“I do believe that and I think they will go out and play their best.
“They’ve worked hard all season and they’ll continue to work hard,” Simpson said.
Dryden and Kenora were slated to face off in the semi-final at 11:30 this morning.