The Rainy River Owl senior and junior girls' basketball teams were both able to qualify for the NorWOSSA 'A' playoffs and they're looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead of them this week.
The St. Thomas Aquinas Saints of Kenora seniors finished in first place and as such nabbed a first-place bye to the final tomorrow and will host the playoffs.
Rainy River's senior squad finished in third place despite dropping a close 38-36 decision to the Atikokan Voyageurs on Halloween at RRHS.
That left the Owls finishing the regular season with a 4-5 record and they'll face the Voyageurs once again in the semifinals this afternoon to earn the right to advance to play the Saints for NorWOSSA gold tomorrow afternoon.
“We finished third in the standings, behind T.A. and Atikokan,” said Owls' coach Rebecca Tolen.
“One of the teams we beat by two and the other beat us by two, so it should be a tight finish.”
The Owls got to experience a playoff-type game against the visiting Voyageurs in the regular season-finale for both teams on Halloween in Rainy River.
Atikokan held a slim 21-18 lead at halftime and were only ahead 25-23 after three quarters.
The fourth quarter featured quite a few lead changes as both the Owls and Voyageurs traded haymakers in an effort to find the knockout blow.
Atikokan finally found a basket to stay ahead within the last 10 seconds of the game, with the Owls unable to find a way to penetrate the defence in the waning seconds.
Taya Hagarty led all Owl scorers with eight points in the narrow defeat while Kate Brown chipped in with seven.
“It was quite the game. I liked that we maintained composure in the game, especially when they were pressuring us,” Tolen enthused.
"The girls were also taking quality shots. Sometimes we missed, but the shots were the right ones to take.
“We've been working hard on decision-making under pressure and it is starting to show,” she lauded.
“We missed baskets we should have had, as well as an early lapse in stopping Atikokan's fast break. Once we shut that down, Atikokan had to really work hard to score.”
As for the Owl juniors, they also finished the regular season in third place with a 6-2 record as they dumped the Voyageurs by a 34-20 count last Thursday at RRHS.
The Owls held just a slim 15-8 lead over Atikokan at halftime before pulling away with a decisive second half to nail down their sixth win of the season.
Rainy River was slated to face the second-ranked host Saints in the semifinals this afternoon for the right to advance to play the top-seeded Red Lake Rams for NorWOSSA gold in the championship game tomorrow afternoon.