You can’t teach size.
The Churchill Trojans (Thunder Bay) exploited their size advantage in the low post to beat the Muskie junior boys’ basketball team 43-32 in Saturday’s final of the black-and-gold’s home tournament.
The Muskies’ chances of taking the tourney title were dealt a serious blow before the opening tip-off when forward Kurt Hill—the team’s tallest player at 6’4”—was ruled out due to the ’flu.
“I think we were a little bit beaten up underneath without Kurt Hill being able to play,” Muskie head coach Gord McCabe remarked afterwards.
“He had the ’flu this morning [Saturday] and he’s been a horse for us pretty much all year, but I thought the kids came out hard and did the best they could.
“We just really had trouble stopping their post players underneath,” McCabe added.
“We tried doubling down after a while—I think 31 [Churchill’s Brandon Myketa] had scored about eight points—but they were just a little bit bigger and stronger than we were.”
Without Hill’s shot-blocking presence patrolling the lane, Myketa and fellow Trojan forward May Janssens ran roughshod over the Muskie defence, combining for 12 first-quarter points as the Trojans built an early 18-10 lead.
“We’ve got two really active, big boys,” Trojans’ coach Jaime Casella said. “They may not make every lay-up or get every rebound, but they’re going to go for it.
“If you don’t have size to deal with our size, you’re going to have trouble and that’s what they [the Muskies] were missing today,” Casella added.
The Muskies began double-teaming the Trojans’ forwards in the second quarter. But while the tactic succeeded in slowing the post players, it allowed Churchill’s guards a chance to get in on the scoring.
The Trojans’ backcourt tandem of Alex Templeman and Lloyd Clavidge made the most of their open looks—draining jump shots and penetrating to the basket for easy lay-ups.
As a result, Churchill held a comfortable 27-16 lead at the half.
Any hopes of a second-half Muskie comeback were dashed early as the Trojans went on an 8-0 run to open the third quarter.
Templeman led the attack for the Trojans—penetrating the Muskie defence at will.
The highlight of the offensive outburst coming when Templeman beat Fort High’s Justin Bujold off the dribble, drove the lane and then threw a perfect pass behind his head to a wide-open Myketa for an easy lay-up.
The Trojans led 39-22 after three.
The black-and-gold cut the lead to 11 points in the fourth quarter against Churchill’s reserves, but that was as close as they’d come as the visitors cruised to the victory.
Myketa led all scorers in the final with 16 points. Evan McCabe scored a team-high eight points for the Muskies.
Despite the loss to the Trojans, Gord McCabe was thrilled with his team’s overall performance in the four-team tournament, which included blowout wins over the Kenora Broncos and Dryden Eagles.
The black-and-gold dumped the Broncos 58-30 in their first round-robin game, then followed it up with a 45-23 thrashing of the Eagles.
Hill led the team in scoring in both wins, netting 17 and 14 points, respectively.
The pair of wins over their NorWOSSA rivals marked the latest in what’s been a remarkable string of improvements following the Muskies’ season-opening 37-31 loss to the Broncos at Fort High.
“I threw a lot of stuff at them really early and said we’d work on it in games,” McCabe explained. “They didn’t get any of it for that first game and now they’re starting to get it.”
“We’ve improved on our offence and defence,” noted Muskie Justin Anderson. “We’re working harder to get up and down the court.”
You can’t teach size.