The Muskie senior girls' basketball team showed they are going to be a force this season—even if their record at a tournament at Lakehead University over the weekend wasn't quite what they wanted.
Fort High went 1-2 at the tourney, showing exactly what they can bring in two of the three games.
“Although we went 1-2, I was really happy with the way we played overall,” enthused Muskie head coach Gord McCabe.
“We learned a lot from this tournament and although we did pretty well on the offensive glass, our defensive rebounding needs some work,” he conceded.
"We have to do a much better job of boxing out and being more physical.
“Both our pressure defence and our press break are works in progress, as sometimes they worked really well and sometimes we made little errors in execution that need to be corrected,” he added.
The squad opened play Friday afternoon with a hard-fought 35-33 loss to a team made up of Lakehead students after Superior CVI (Thunder Bay) withdrew from the tournament.
As such, the game didn't end up counting in the tourney standings.
Ellie Petsnick scored a team-high 10 points in that one while Sarah Larson chipped in with nine.
“Our first game was against a team of LU students who were varsity basketball players in high school but don't play varsity basketball at university,” McCabe explained.
“What this team lacked in 'teamwork' it made up for in individual talent,” he noted.
“I was actually a little worried when they were warming up but I thought we hung in really well,” McCabe lauded.
“We actually led the game right up to the end," he said. "We literally lost on a buzzer-beater . . . shot went up, horn went off, and the ball went in.”
In the Muskies' second game that night, they ran into the buzzsaw that was the St. Ignatius Falcons (Thunder Bay), who rolled to a 63-24 romp.
Grace Petsnick topped the black-and-gold with seven points while Larson added six.
“At this point in the season, they were simply a lot better than we were,” McCabe said of the Falcons.
"I don't know when they started practising but the stuff they were running clearly was not the result of five practises together.
“I thought our starters hung in really well," he lauded. ”And I think after the first quarter, the score was 16-12.
"However, they used a full-court pressure against us relentlessly and some of our players—who have just moved up from junior—had not seen that kind of pressure.
“We were guilty of a lot of turnovers in the second quarter and that really took the wind out of our sails, which led to a lot of mental errors,” McCabe added.
The Muskies did end on a good note, though, wrapping up play Saturday morning with an impressive 42-22 victory over the Westgate Tigers.
Larson led the way with 14 points, Ellie Petsnick had 12, and Grace Petsnick added 10.
“Our third game against Westgate saw a solid effort from everyone as we controlled the game throughout,” McCabe enthused.
"I thought Sarah Larson and Ellie Petsnick really established themselves as a strong inside presence, especially on the offensive end.
“Grace Petsnick was in foul trouble through the entire first game and actually fouled out of that game with about five minutes left,” he added.
“But I thought she played great against Westgate.”
McCabe said the coaching staff went into the tourney being not too sure of who was going to be squad's starting guards this year but noted the picture is becoming more clear now.
“Alina Eldridge and Janissa Judson really showed the benefits of already having a year of senior experience,” he remarked.
“They set themselves apart a bit this weekend but we do have some talented guards coming up from junior so that could change,” McCabe stressed.
“Healthy competition for playing time is a good thing.”
The Muskies now will shift their focus to their NorWOSSA regular-season opener, when they'll host the Dryden Eagles tomorrow at the “Fish Tank.”
Then they'll cap the week by heading to Dryden the following day to play in another exhibition tournament.
McCabe had some areas in mind that his players would need to work on in practice this week.
“We are going to make some adjustments to both our offence and defence in practice this week leading up to the home-opener against Dryden,” he revealed.
"While we don't need to make drastic changes, we do see some things that need to be improved in terms of positioning and movement without the ball.
“I expect Dryden will have some very quick guards and we will have to be sure not to allow dribble penetration,” McCabe stressed.
“If we do that, get out on their outside shooters and rebound, we should be all right.”