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Owls' hoopsters off to perfect starts

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It was monkey see, monkey do last week for both the Rainy River Owls' senior and junior girls' basketball teams.

Both squads defeated the host Pelican Falls Timberwolves and Sioux Lookout Warriors to start the NorWOSSA 'A' regular season with identical 2-0 records.

The senior hoopsters opened play with an impressive 36-18 win over the Timberwolves last Wednesday.

Then the following day, the Owls eked out a narrow 29-26 comeback triumph over the Warriors.

Rainy River trailed the hosts 20-19 with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter before ending on a 10-6 run to pull out the win.

“The key to our success against Pelican Falls and Sioux Lookout was finding the net,” noted Owls' head coach Rebecca Tolen.

“We struggled with our shooting percentages so we have been working hard at scoring baskets and getting rebounds,” she said.

“This paid off for us.”

Although she liked a lot of what she saw from her squad, Tolen conceded there still are areas on which to improve.

“We are still working hard on our help side on our man-on-man defence,” she remarked.

“It is improving but we still have a ways to go.”

One of the players who stood out to Tolen in last week's wins was Aynsley Williams.

“Aynsley Williams had some standout moments for us last week,” she lauded.

“Her strength on defence was one of the main keys to our success.”

The Owls were slated to face the host Red Lake Rams today before visiting the St. Thomas Aquinas Saints in Kenora tomorrow.

Rainy River then will host its final four games of the regular season.

Tolen expects her squad will have to be firing on all cylinders in order to improve on its 2-0 record this week.

“We will be continuing to work on improving our defence, as well as offensive decision-making,” she noted.

"I expect Red Lake and St. Thomas Aquinas to both be strong all-around teams.

“We will need to be [at] our best in order to beat them,” she stressed.

As for the juniors, they kicked off their season last Wednesday with an emphatic 40-7 rout of the host Timberwolves.

Rainy River led 19-7 at halftime before outscoring Pelican Falls 21-0 in the second half in an impressive defensive performance.

Kirsten Armstrong scored a team-high eight points while Katelyn Brown added six.

Then on Thursday, they cruised to a 38-20 win over the host Warriors.

Brown led the way offensively with a 10-point effort while Armstrong chipped in with eight.

“Keeping it simple,” said Owls' head coach Corey Smith, also the new vice-principal at RRHS, when asked what were the biggest keys to success last week.

“I focus on the fundamentals and our girls have done well following the game plan.”

Smith also felt that even with their early success, the Owls could have been better with making lay-ups.

“Hitting open lay-ups and taking our time around the basketball [needs improvement],” he stressed.

“Once we get better at this, the sky is the limit.”

The juniors also faced the Rams in Red Lake today before visiting the Saints in Kenora tomorrow.

Smith had some areas in mind on how his charges would be able to maintain their early-season success this week against tough competition.

“Perfecting our half-court press and hitting lay-ups,” he reiterated.

“Being new to the board, I don't have any history with the schools, [so] it's nice to come into a game with a clean slate and not really knowing what to expect from each school,” Smith reasoned.

“We need to bring our 'A' game every time we are out on the floor,” he stressed.

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