Heading into last weekend’s action against the Hammarskjold Vikings (Thunder Bay), the Muskie senior girls’ basketball team knew they would have to take their game to a higher level.
Although the black-and-gold had an impressive 9-1 record so far, including a perfect 6-0 mark in NorWOSSA exhibition action, co-coach Gord McCabe admitted the Vikings would be a much more difficult task than their previous opponents.
And they proved that by beating the Muskies twice here, opening with a 54-40 win Friday afternoon and then completing the sweep with a 39-31 victory Saturday morning.
Hammarskjold was just too much for the black-and-gold to handle. While the Muskies played very well in spurts, they could not put together four good quarters in either match to pull out a win.
In both games, the Muskies trailed the Vikings by a sizable margin but fought back to within just a few points before Hammarskjold pulled away for good with a late-game run.
Down 22-10 on Saturday, the Muskies went on a 12-2 run—including three-straight baskets by guard Laureen Cousineau—to pull to within 24-22 before Hammarskjold rebounded to outscore the black-and-gold 13-1 down the stretch.
Still, McCabe said he was pleased with his team’s play on the weekend, and felt it was a good way to end their exhibition season before they host the NorWOSSA finals this Friday.
“We did look out of place at times but I thought we also played very well,” he noted. “They were very good going up and down the floor, much better than Kenora or Dryden, and our girls stayed with them.”
The one Muskie who stayed with Hammarskjold in both games was Cousineau, who led the Muskies with 18 points Friday and then added 15 more in Saturday’s loss.
She also played her usually tough defence. On one play late in the third quarter after she missed a lay-up, Cousineau was the first Muskie back on defence to break up a long cross-court pass.
McCabe said Cousineau definitely was one of the best players on the floor for either team.
“Laureen just played incredible, disciplined basketball,” he remarked after Saturday’s game. “At times, [she] has been our only offensive threat but we’re a much better team when we have three or four other players firing.
“The fact is, we think we’re a pretty good team—not a great team—so we have to have everyone [contributing] on offence,” he added.
McCabe felt the weekend series with the Vikings left his team better prepared for the NorWOSSA final against the winner of the Kenora/Dryden semi-final—even though the Muskies beat both teams on the road this season (including a slim 36-34 victory over the Broncos last week).
He also said the bye to the final would benefit his squad.
“The thing is we’ve earned the bye because we beat both teams in their own gym so we belong in the final,” noted McCabe, adding he feels this is the Muskies’ best senior girls’ team in quite some while.
Certain his squad will face Kenora in the league final, McCabe already is preparing for Kenora’s small but quick lineup to match up against the Muskies’ height in forwards Siobhan Devlin, Joelle Forget, and Karen Harris—all six feet tall or better.
“The key for us is to not turn the ball over, have more players contribute on offence, and play a rugged defence because Kenora is a typical Kenora team in that they are small but they move the ball upcourt fast,” he noted.
“If we do those things, I think we’ll do fine,” he stressed.
The senior girls’ final is slated for 7 p.m. while the junior girls are set to play at 5 p.m.