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Muskies outsized in season-ending sweep

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Leads, rebounds, and a second-straight trip to the all-Ontarios were snatched away from the Muskie senior boys’ basketball team here over the weekend.

The Hillcrest Colts (Thunder Bay) dominated the boards 44-23 en route to their 64-57 win over the Muskies on Saturday morning to sweep the best-of-three NWOSSAA final.

They had won the opener 55-45 on Friday afternoon.

Second-chance points killed the Muskies on Saturday as the taller Colts scored 17 off 21 offensive rebounds.

“The size was the big difference. They had a lot more bigger athletes than we did, but I think we showed more heart and desire,” said Muskie co-coach Mike Busch, who added his team played admirably despite being labelled as underdogs coming in.

The Muskies had erased a 36-32 halftime deficit and led 47-40 after the third quarter Saturday thanks to back-to-back threes from guards Kevin Gemmell and Josh McMahon, and a defence-slicing drive by Travis Derkson for two.

But Hillcrest opened the fourth with a 17-4 run, including two buckets from down low by Colts forward Riley Jones to regain a 53-51 lead with 4:08 to go.

Meanwhile, the Muskies went cold from the field and committed crucial turnovers down the stretch.

“We ran a half-court trap to cause some turnovers and luckily it worked,” Hillcrest head coach Wayne Magill said. “But I have to give credit to the Muskies. That’s a nice basketball club.”

Kevin Gemmell scored 19 points to lead all scorers Saturday. Muskie co-captain Jamie Algie scored 10 in his final high school basketball game, but was held to only 2-for-8 shooting from the field.

Steve Zapior netted 17 to lead Hillcrest.

The Muskies faced an uphill climb before Friday’s game even tipped off as starting forward Jock Gemmell sprained his left ankle during warm-ups.

The OAC student played through pain and scored a team-high 13 points (along with brother, Kevin) in Friday’s loss. He didn’t dress for Saturday’s final.

The Muskies let another lead slip away in the fourth quarter Friday as the Colts again struck late with a 20-9 run. Zapior sparked the rally by scoring three three-pointers (he finished with 20 points).

This marked the Colts’ first trip to the all-Ontarios in almost 30 years. They’ll move on to Stratford for the OFSAA ‘AA’ tournament starting Wednesday.

The Muskies, who had swept Hillcrest at last year’s NWOSSAA showdown in Thunder Bay, finished the regular season with a 6-2 en route to their third-straight NorWOSSA title.

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