Speed key for senior hoopsters

Catch them if you can.
The Muskie senior boys’ basketball team plans to put its opponents in chase mode throughout the upcoming season—utilizing an uptempo attack that coach Paul Noonan is relying on to leave their rivals gasping for air.
“We’re going to be a hustling team,” declared Noonan, whose crew earned a spectacular overtime victory over Dryden in the NorWOSSA semi-finals last season before losing to the Kenora Broncos in the final.
“There’s going to be lots of transition ball on our part, and we’re going to be fun to watch,” he vowed.
The Muskies will count on veterans like Kevin Gemmell and Cullan McGinnis to light up the scoreboard while asking first-year seniors like Larry Pham, Fraser Gibson, and Mark Buist to do their part to keep the Muskie machine operating at peak capacity.
“Larry’s going to be important for us,” Noonan said of the guard who was far and away the junior Muskies’ top scorer last season, including 33 points in their NorWOSSA semi-final loss to Kenora.
“Then you’ve got Fraser, who’s a little raw, but he’s a deceptively strong kid,” added Noonan. “And Mark’s got lots of natural talent. He can be a big asset for us this year.”
The sky’s the limit for this group as far as Noonan is concerned.
“We’ve definitely got our eyes set on getting to OFSAA in Perth come the new year,” he stressed.
< *c>No more name tags
Meanwhile, last year’s edition of the Muskie junior boys’ hoops squad was like the first day of school—hardly anyone knew each other’s name.
But with seven players back this season as opposed to having only three veterans a year ago, coach Claude Gagnon has thoughts of a big year ahead.
And he does mean big.
“We’ve got a lot of tall people, about seven of them,” said Gagnon, whose team went 1-7 during the regular season but then scared the shorts off of Kenora before losing by two points in the NorWOSSA semi-final.
“I know we’ll be more competitive this year,” he enthused. “Our last game against Kenora was a very good experience for our guys. They began to believe in themselves.”
Gagnon will unleash inside/outside shooting threat Mitchel Chiefson on his opposition, along with centre Kyle Perrott and forward D.J. Howells, whom the coach points to as a unifying element for the team.
“He’s a good communicator out there,” said Gagnon. “Hopefully he will bring this gang together, and he’s going to be a force inside.”
Gagnon is aware he may have the biggest boys on the block, but not necessarily the fastest. As such, it will be offence based on numbers of chances rather than always looking for the perfect play.
“Other teams will be quicker,” he admitted. “That means I’m asking the guys to shoot a lot more this season to increase our scoring chances to make up for what we lack in speed.”
The NorWOSSA season for both squads kicks off Dec. 11 in Kenora.
But before that, the senior boys will host their annual tournament starting tomorrow and running through Saturday, with seven teams involved.
The Muskies will open play with an exhibition contest against the Lake of the Woods Bears (Baudette) tomorrow at 6 p.m.
The Bears are in the tourney because of the last-minute withdrawal of St. Thomas Aquinas (Kenora), but they cannot be a full-fledged part of the event due to Minnesota athletic rules that prevent a high school team from playing more than one game per day.
Fort High then takes on the Nipigon-Red Rock Lakers on Friday at 3 p.m., before returning to the court at 7:30 p.m. against the Hillcrest Colts—the second-ranked team in Thunder Bay.
The Muskies’ lone game Saturday will see them square off against the Hammarskjold Vikings—Thunder Bay’s top-ranked squad.
The tournament wraps up with the Dryden Eagles battling the Colts at 1:30 p.m.