Sr. hoopsters sweep to home tourney crown

Lucas Punkari

While the start of the NorWOSSA regular season is still a week away, the Muskie senior boys’ basketball team already has a trophy to its credit.
The squad captured the McDonald’s Tip-Off Tournament at Fort High over the weekend with a perfect 4-0 record.
“To start out and finish the weekend with a perfect record and a tournament title is always a good thing,” Muskie head coach Bryce Coyle said.
“It was a total team effort this weekend from front to back, and that is what makes this a really good feeling,” he enthused.
“This feels pretty good,” echoed returning Grade 12 point guard Tim Metke.
“We still have some stuff that we need to work on, of course, early in the season,” he added. “But to come into our home tournament and finish up with a perfect record is great.”
The black-and-gold opened play Thursday evening with a 36-31 triumph over the Baudette Bears, with Will Anderson’s 15 points leading the attack.
“We were a little sluggish offensively in that game, but our defence was really good so I’m pleased with that,” Coyle said afterwards.
The Muskies continued their winning ways Friday afternoon with a narrow 52-51 win over the Dryden Eagles, withstanding a late comeback bid by their NorWOSSA rivals.
Fort High then followed that up with a 41-19 victory over the Kenora Broncos on Friday evening, thanks largely to a 21-4 outburst in the first quarter.
“Against Dryden, we kind of let our lead slip there in the fourth quarter but the guys were able to bear down and hold on for the win,” Coyle recalled.
“Then against Kenora, we just got a chance to jump on them early with strong play both on offence and on defence, and we just held the lead the rest of the way,” he added.
Caleb McIntosh led the Muskies with 24 points in the win over the Eagles while Lewis Linklater had 14 points to pace the offence against Kenora.
The Muskies then completed their perfect tournament Saturday afternoon by rolling to a 51-24 romp over the International Falls Broncos.
Anderson led the way with a 16-point outing.
“Our defensive play was just phenomenal against the [Falls] Broncos,” Coyle lauded after the game.
“That is a good strong team over there that we held to just 24 points, and I can’t say enough about how the defence played to finish off the weekend,” he stressed.
“The play of our defence was probably the biggest thing for us, especially after our scrimmages last week in International Falls,” added Metke.
“As coach said, we improved a lot during the course of those games and we just continued to build off of that during the tournament here,” he noted.
When asked who some of the big contributors were to the Muskies’ tournament win, Coyle nearly rhymed off the entire roster, which demonstrated the depth his squad has.
“There’s just so many guys that helped out in the different ways,” he explained.
“You had players like Will and Caleb who led the way for us offensively, and then on the boards you had someone like Lewis who was just a monster for us all weekend.
“Plus we had guys who would come off of the bench who would chip in.”
With an extended period of practices ahead for the senior hoopsters before the NorWOSSA season begins next Wednesday in Dryden, Coyle will be working on solidifying a few different aspects of his team’s play.
“We’re just going to keep working on our offence and our defence, and make sure that those parts of their games keep getting better and better during the year,” he stressed.
“Another big thing that we will be working on is our free-throw shooting, as our percentages weren’t quite as good this weekend as I would have liked them to have been, to be honest,” Coyle added.
“And when you are in a close game like that, those are always a key to winning the game.”
Following their match-up in Dryden, the black-and-gold then will host the Kenora Broncos in NorWOSSA action next Thursday afternoon (Dec. 22).