The Muskie senior girls' basketball team may have lost three of four games to the top-ranked Dryden Eagles during the regular season but it wrote a new script in the NorWOSSA final here last Tuesday night.
The second-seeded Muskies used a nine-point performance from Grace Petsnick to upset the Eagles 46-35 to nab gold and earn a berth in the best-of-three NWOSSAA championships slated for this Friday and Saturday in Thunder Bay.
“We are really excited about the opportunity to represent NorWOSSA against the Thunder Bay winner,” Muskie head coach Gord McCabe enthused last week.
“The task ahead of us is formidable," he conceded. ”There is no doubt we will enter as a huge underdog.
“I don't know if the NorWOSSA [senior] girls' winner has ever beaten the Thunder Bay winner in girls' basketball but [if so] it has not happened very often,” McCabe noted.
“As they continue to close high schools in Thunder Bay, those remaining get bigger with more kids to draw from,” he explained.
The Muskies will face either the St. Ignatius Falcons or the Hammarskjold Vikings at NWOSSAA for a chance at a berth to the all-Ontarios, which are slated for Nov. 22-24 in London.
“We have played St. Ignatius twice and have not fared very well," McCabe recalled. ”They are a very quick team and we got caught standing around a bit.
"I know we can play much better than we did against them in those games.
“At this point, I know very little about Hammarskjold,” he added.
"I have only seen them play for about five-10 minutes this season so don't have much to go on.
“Most of the players on our team were on the junior team when we played them two years ago in the Westgate tournament and we lost by two [points] but obviously a lot has changed since then,” McCabe reasoned.
“We are not conceding anything—I know that we will show up ready to play and play hard,” he vowed.
As has been the case in many of their games this season, the Muskies and Eagles battled each other hard in the NorWOSSA final.
The Muskies led 12-11 after the first quarter and pushed it to a slim three-point lead at the break at 25-22.
“I could not have been prouder of my team's performance [on Tuesday]," McCabe lauded. ”That game was a battle from the opening tip.
“We started a bit slowly and I think that was adjusting to the speed Dryden plays at, compared to Kenora who we had played in the semi-final,” he noted
“We also went for about five minutes in the first quarter where we seemed to completely forget how to run our offence,” McCabe added.
“I can't remember if it was in a time-out or at the end of the first quarter but Sarah Larson—who is far and away the quietest player on the team—came back to the huddle and was very assertive in addressing the team about how we were not doing what we were supposed to be doing.”
That call-out by Larson seemed to spark the Muskies as they outscored the Eagles 21-13 over the final half to preserve their win and book their berth at NWOSSAA.
“The other players were all in shock but I really think that was the turning point,” McCabe said.
"The passion in her remarks, and the fact it came from such an unexpected source, showed how her teammates much this meant to her and everyone seemed to pick up the intensity after that.
“From that point on, I thought we outworked and outplayed Dryden,” he noted.
Simone Payne and Jamie Spencer both scored eight points each while Ellie Petsnick netted six to help pace the offence.
Janissa Judson chipped in five points, Larson and Alina Eldridge both had four points each, and Andrea Schram added two.