The Muskie senior boys’ basketball team claimed its first Kenora Invitational Tournament title with a thrilling 62-59 victory over the Churchill Bulldogs (Winnipeg) there Saturday.
Trailing 31-20 at the half to the much taller Bulldogs, the Muskies starting hitting their shots and taking the ball hard to the basket in the second half.
They grabbed the lead for good with about four minutes to play.
“Our guys played two really good games to get to the final and then they picked it up in the second half against Churchill, who were a very good team,” enthused Muskie co-coach Al McManaman.
John Sivonen, who had 21 points in the final, was named the tournament MVP. Evan Woodland, selected to the all-star team, and Gary Wager also had strong games offensively against Churchill.
But McManaman said any number of Muskies could have gotten an all-star nod. Most played top-notch basketball and as a team, the black-and-gold clearly were the best of the eight-team field that included several top-ranked teams from Winnipeg.
The Muskies opened the tournament Friday with a 59-51 win over Daniel McIntyre Collegiate (Winnipeg). Sivonen led the way with 19 points while Woodland netted 15.
Bryce Coyle also was in double figures with 10 points.
“They had a strong team with good athletes but they didn’t have any outside shooters so we went to the zone [defence],” noted McManaman.
The Muskies then earned a berth in the final with a 62-41 win over the St. Paul’s Crusaders (Winnipeg) in a game McManaman said was “closer than the score would indicate.”
After the Muskies began to pull away, he admitted the Crusaders “opened their bench” and played second-string players.
McManaman praised the play of Terry LaBelle as one of the keys to the win against St. Paul’s, saying the six-footer was phenomenal in keeping the Crusaders’ big man in check underneath while controlling the boards for the Muskies.
LaBelle also contributed 15 points on offence. Woodland led the team with 18 against St. Paul’s while Wager added 17.
St. Paul’s went on to lose the third-place game 70-52 to the host Kenora Broncos while Daniel McIntyre trounced the Grant Park Pirates 65-42 in the consolation final.