Development of rookie players is key at the junior level in high school sports—and it's something that's starting to become more noticeable for the Muskie girls' basketball squad.
A number of younger players stood out to co-coach Gord McCabe in Thursday afternoon's 56-28 rout of the visiting Kenora Broncos, which saw the black-and-gold improve to 3-1 in NorWOSSA play.
“I thought this was a bit of a 'coming out party' for some of our Grade 9 players,” he noted.
“Justine Linklater has been very strong under the boards since Day 1 but we have some really quick Grade 9 guards who are starting to assert themselves,” McCabe said.
“Tatum Glowasky is a natural scorer who has super quick hands and feet,” he lauded.
"Joyce Wu, Kathryn Fisher, Ayiana Gagne, and Cassie Krawchuk were really disruptive on defence with their speed and quickness.
“I also played Lauren Penney and Keisha Debungie—two of our veteran players— together in the post for the first time and they worked really well together,” McCabe added.
Keisha Debungie scored a team-high 13 points while Linklater and Glowasky each netted 10 to pace the Muskies' romp.
Penney chipped in with six points while Joanna Empey added four.
The black-and-gold opened the game with a 10-0 run and led the Broncos (3-1) by a margin of 18-6 after the first quarter.
McCabe called a time-out after Kenora trimmed it to 20-14 in the second quarter, which seemed to calm the Muskies down as they led 31-16 at haltime.
“I could not have been happier with the way we played,” McCabe enthused.
“Our defence was solid and—for the first time—we really started to use the fast-break to create some easy lay-up opportunities,” he noted.
“We missed a few of those but that will come.”
Fort High then outscored the Broncos 25-12 in the second half to seal the victory.
“We came out of the gate much better and actually went up 10-0 before they scored,” McCabe recalled.
“I think the Grade 9 girls have finally settled in to high school basketball," he added. ”They are much more relaxed on the court and it showed.
“We also protected the ball much better and did not have nearly as many unforced turnovers.”
The Muskies went into Thursday's game fresh off a 44-19 thumping of the host Dryden Eagles (0-4) last Tuesday.
Linklater scored a team-high 10 points in that one while Glowasky netted seven.
Empey and Debungie each added six.
The Muskies next will be in action this Friday and Saturday when they host their annual home tournament.
The Eagles, Broncos, St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (Kenora), and Atikokan Voyageurs all are expected to participate.
McCabe knew what his charges would be working on this week in practice in preparation for the two-day tourney.
“We may or may not introduce a zone defence,” he revealed.
“I still want the focus of our defence to be man-to-man, but it would be helpful to be able to show a different look every so often,” he reasoned.
“We also need to work against handling full-court pressure,” McCabe stressed.
“We tried to dribble too much against Dryden's 1-3-1 trap [last] Tuesday and we will work on a couple of difference ways to beat that.”
As for moving forward in league play, which resumes this coming Tuesday (Oct. 16) when the Muskies host Dryden, McCabe said he would like his squad to have a committed effort to continually improving every day.
“We beat Kenora pretty handily on Thursday but we realize that they did not have their best player at that game, who scored 14 points against us in our loss up there,” he noted.
“We will not take anything for granted,” McCabe vowed.
“We know the other teams are going to improve," he remarked. "It is our job to improve more, and faster, than they do.”