The Muskies opened the NorWOSSA season here yesterday afternoon faced with a dilemma.
They could have played their potent starting five against the Dryden Eagles, and most likely run up the score, or play most of the game with their back-ups—keeping the score relatively close.
They chose the latter, and the result was a dull 39-25 victory.
The Muskies’ bench players, except for Evan Woodland, played the first five minutes and literally stood around and watched as the Eagles grabbed a surprising 8-0 lead.
But then Jock Gemmell, John Sivonen, Doug LaBelle, and Jamie Algie came in and quickly erased an 8-2 deficit to tie the game at 10-10 in the final two minutes of the first quarter.
Sivonen did most of the damage, netting the Muskies’ first three baskets.
Then leading 14-13 with two minutes to go in the first half, the Muskies finally awoke when Woodland buried a three-pointer. They added another two baskets for a 21-13 lead at halftime.
The Muskies then went on a 9-2 run in the first five minutes of the third, highlighted by a nifty behind-the-neck pass from Sivonen to a trailing Woodland, who finished off the play with an easy lay-up.
Up 36-19 after three, the black-and-gold only managed three points in the final stanza but it was more than enough for the easy victory.
With the Muskie starters playing most of the second and third quarters, mixed in with the odd bench player, Dryden chose to play a passive style of offence that hinged on ball control while slowly moving it upcourt.
It was about as much fun as watching paint dry. And it wasn’t very effective, either, as both teams turned the ball over several times, missed numerous easy baskets, and made one bad decision after the other.
“We tried to get some players some playing time and it ended up being boring basketball,” Muskie co-coach Al McManaman admitted afterwards.
“If we don’t progress in the next couple of months, we’ll be worried but it’s a learning curve,” he added.
Muskie co-coach Paul Noonan agreed it wasn’t one of their better games on the season.
“We expected a little better production from our second line,” he remarked. “We hoped they would be able to play at least with Dryden.
“[The Eagles] tried to slow us down as much as they could and we stopped them by playing an aggressive zone,” he noted.
Sivonen led the Muskies with 13 points while Woodland netted 12.
In junior action, the black-and-gold used a strong defensive effort to down the visiting Eagles 36-29 yesterday.
“It was a total team effort,” Muskie coach Greg St. Croix enthused afterwards. “We’ve got a lot to work on but it was good to get the win. We did all right.”
St. Croix said several players came to the forefront in the win, particularly Vern Pham, Dan Poperechny, Geoff Gerley, and Kevin Gemmell.
Poperechny and Pham led the way with eight points each while Gerley added six.
But St. Croix said he was concerned with their rebounding, noting they’ll need to improve on that aspect before their next game Tuesday (Dec. 21) up in Kenora.