The Muskie girls’ senior basketball team only was able to muster one win at a tournament in Thunder Bay over the weekend, but they very well could have come home with a 2-1 record.
The black-and-gold opened with a victory over Superior, winning by a double-digit margin (the final score was not available).
Fort High then faced Churchill, losing a 19-17 heartbreaker.
The Muskies trailed 9-4 at the half, then stormed back, holding Churchill scoreless in the third quarter to grab a 13-9 lead.
But the squad experienced some troubles at the foul line in the fourth quarter as Churchill rallied for the two-point win.
Chelsea Hill led the Muskies with six points while Chantal Jodoin netted five-of-seven attempts from the free-throw line.
“We played phenomenal defence,” enthused coach Marla Knutsen. “It really came down to foul shooting in this game because we were so close and we were in bonus in the last quarter.
“It could have gone either way, but the girls played one of the best games I’ve ever seen,” she added.
In the bronze-medal game, Fort High ran into a strong Hammarskjold squad, which ran away with a 40-17 triumph.
Hill again tallied six points to lead the attack.
Although Hammarskjold was able to break through the Muskie defence later on, Knutsen was encouraged by the way her squad was able to keep tabs on the Viking attackers in the early going.
However, a few slip-ups in the closing stages allowed Hammarskjold to start to put their stamp on the game.
“We did keep the score down for the first little while,” recalled Knutsen. “We did play really, really good defence.
“We just made too many mistakes,” she acknowledged. “They [Hammarskjold] are so fast that they get any loose ball.”
Still, Knutsen said playing tough competition exposed some flaws the Muskies now will have a chance to work on. She feels the offence, in particular, needs work in the clutch to compete with some of the stronger teams in the region.
“We learned a lot. We learned what we have to work on,” she stressed. “I’d say we need to work on passing and running our offence.
“When the pressure hits, we have to remember our jobs and remember to remain in control of the ball,” she explained.
“When the pressure hits, we try to get rid of it too quickly.”
On the flip side, the Muskies generally are adept at keeping points off of the board by making shots difficult for their opponents—if they’re even able to get the ball away.
“Defence is our strongest point right now. Our defence is very, very good,” Knutsen said.
“Our girls make a lot of steals,” she noted. “They’re good at anticipating the pass and cutting that off.
“Our rebounders are getting better,” she added.
“We make the other team work the ball. We don’t give up too many easy shots.”
Knutsen said the Muskies have a bit of a blue-collar identity, where no player stands out significantly over another.
She added the scoresheet may list the top scorers, but when all skills are considered, one Muskie is pretty much as valuable as another.
“We’ve found that we have a really balanced team,” she observed. “They’ve been getting pretty much equal playing time.
“There are a few that stand out that score the most points, but we can count on any member of our team at any point in the game,” she stressed.
“Our real strength this year is that our whole bench is pretty strong.”
The Muskies, who are 4-1 in NorWOSSA play, suffered their first defeat of the season last Wednesday in Dryden, falling 28-23 to the Eagles in overtime.
Fort High is scheduled to resume action on Tuesday (Oct. 26) when they visit Kenora, then return home for games with the Broncos (Nov. 2) and the Dryden Eagles (Nov. 4) to wrap up the regular season.
The NorWOSSA playoffs will be played here Nov. 10.