Now will host
Defence, indeed, wins championships.
The senior Muskie girls’ basketball team punched their ticket to the best-of-three NWOSSAA playoffs by playing stifling defence in a 28-12 win over the host Kenora Broncos in the NorWOSSA final last Thursday.
The Broncos were on a high after earning their first win of the year in a semi-final upset over Dryden earlier in the day—and their adrenalin rush carried them to a 6-2 lead after the first quarter over the Muskies.
But Fort High dropped a defensive sledgehammer on the Broncos the rest of the way, allowing only six more points through the final three quarters to capture its first NorWOSSA title in five years.
“I don’t think we had any overconfidence going up against Kenora,” said coach Ian Simpson. “The games against them this year have always been close.
“We had a good mindset going in as we had beat Kenora five times already this year,” he noted.
“But we also knew if we made mistakes, it can go the other way.”
The Muskies went on a 7-0 run in the second quarter to lead 9-6 at halftime and were ahead 14-8 after three quarters.
A tired Broncos’ team withered in the fourth, with Fort High holding a 12-4 edge in scoring.
Sara Roach paced the Muskies with 10 points while Chelsea Hill had seven and Jolene Stahn added five.
“Sara really stepped up,” Simpson said of Roach’s performance. “She’s been pretty steady offensively and defensively for us all year.
“They fouled her a lot late in the game and she went 6-for-10 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter,” he noted.
The Broncos kept Kayla Windigo, the Muskies’ leading scorer during the regular season, under wraps at the offensive end all day, but Windigo still hurt Kenora by spearheading the suffocating defensive stand.
“Kayla was a dynamo on ‘D’. She was the heart of our defence,” Simpson lauded.
“And as the point guard, she was responsible for bringing up the ball and co-ordinating our offence.”
The squad now faces an enormous challenge when they host the Hammarskjold Vikings (Thunder Bay) for the NWOSSAA crown—and a trip to the all-Ontarios—this weekend.
The opener goes Friday at 3:30 p.m., with the start times for Game 2 and Game 3, if necessary, on Saturday to be confirmed later this week.
“Hammarskjold is one of the best teams to come out of Thunder Bay in the last six or seven years,” Simpson said of the Vikings, who capped a perfect 14-0 season in the Thunder Bay league with a 52-22 victory over the St. Ignatius Falcons on Monday night to sweep their best-of-three final.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” he admitted.
“They beat us by 22 or 23 points two different times at tournaments in Thunder Bay this season,” Simpson added.
“They’re completely well-balanced offensively. They have extremely good guards and good inside players,” he noted.
“They can hurt you with their outside shooting or go inside. They have great depth.
“Defensively, their full-court pressure is tremendous and they’re very tough when they play man-to-man,” Simpson said.
The Muskies especially will have to keep an eye on the Vikings’ all-star point guard, Katie Ulakovic, who led Hammarskjold with 18 points in the title clincher against the Falcons and was named MVP in the Vikings’ championship run at a tournament in Sault Ste. Marie last month.
“[Ulakovic] is good enough to play university ball right now,” noted Simpson. “She can really shoot from the outside.”