The Muskie junior girls’ basketball team hasn’t won the NorWOSSA championship since 1979 season--an amazing span of 19 years considering they just compete in a three-team league against Dryden and Kenora.
But Fort High finally will get to see its name inscribed on the junior trophy once again after a thrilling 44-30 victory over the Kenora Broncos in the league final here Friday afternoon.
Although the Muskies pulled away with a 14-point victory in the end, the game was much more closer than the score indicated.
In fact, the black-and-gold trailed 26-25 heading into the fourth quarter. But that’s where the home team took over, led in large part by the spectacular play of point guard Sarah Noonan who scored a game-high 21 points.
Noonan brought an already boisterous crowd to its feet with a sensational left-handed, reverse lay-up that pulled the Muskies to within 28-27 with 7:05 to play. And that play sparked them to a 12-0 run down the stretch.
Muskie co-coach Gord McCabe was amazed at the play of Noonan throughout the game but said the reverse lay-up clearly changed the momentum.
“It really was a fantastic play that you just don’t see at the junior level,” enthused McCabe, in his first season as the junior coach along with Kent Kowalski.
“You just don’t see that kind of talent and I think the other team got intimidated,” he added. “I know because it’s happened to us before.
“Sarah struggled a bit in the first half because she tried to do too much but she was terrific in the second half,” he noted.
McCabe also said the crowd definitely helped his team win.
“I think our kids were nervous at first because of the crowd and we tried to do everything in the first half [and] I think the kids were scared,” he admitted.
“But in the second half, [the crowd] helped pump up the girls and it was nice to see them get that kind of support,” he added. “And the girls responded very well.”
While Noonan was spectacular on offence, the Muskie defence also rose to the occasion led by Linda Zimmerman and Jamie Whitecrow, who helped shut down Kenora’s offensive attack, particularly from the midway point of the second quarter when the Muskies went to a full-court press.
The press, used in spurts during the latter stages of the game, bottled up the Bronco offence and produced several turnovers, which resulted in points for the home side.
“I thought Jamie was a spark plug for the team coming off the bench,” enthused McCabe. “When we used the full-court press, Kenora wasn’t ready to deal with it. And then when they called a time-out to talk about it, we took it off.
“We would turn up the heat and they just didn’t adjust to the deep press,” he stressed. “They just couldn’t keep up with us when we played pressure basketball--they reacted very poorly and we did some things they weren’t ready for.”
The press forced Kenora to try long cross-court passes to penetrate the offensive zone but when they did that, Zimmerman, who also netted seven points, was usually there to block or intercept them.
Despite trailing for most of the game, McCabe said he was confident the team would pull out the victory.
“We basically talked at halftime about how we had a long way to go to win the game but we thought we were much more fundamentally sound than they were,” he remarked. “We knew we were a better team than they were and we felt we had the best team in the league.”
“We should have led in the third, but we just couldn’t finish, but then we finished those turnovers in the fourth,” he noted.