The Muskie senior girls' basketball team continues to get the job done in NorWOSSA play but head coach Gord McCabe knows the road ahead will be no easy task.
A 63-29 romp over the Kenora Broncos on Thursday afternoon helped Fort High improve its league-leading record to 3-1, but McCabe believes being aware of other team's strengths—and learning how to defend it—will be crucial to continued success in the second half of the season.
“Dealing with full-court pressure and handling the speed of Dryden's guards are the two biggest challenges I see ahead of us,” he noted.
“We also have to guard against becoming overconfident,” McCabe warned.
"But I think our start against Dryden last Tuesday, where we fell behind 8-2, plus our overtime loss to them in our season-opener should be proof to the girls that they can beat us.
“We would like to secure first place to get the bye into the [NorWOSSA final] but the best way to do that is to focus on one game and one possession at a time,” he reasoned.
Ellie Petsnick led the way offensively against Kenora with a 22-point performance while Jamie Spencer added 16.
Grace Petsnick chipped in with nine points while Taylor Steinke had six.
Carmen Hebert and Simone Payne each netted four, with Bella Ward also sinking a basket.
The Muskies led the winless Broncos 23-8 after the first quarter and 26-12 at halftime.
“I was really worried that we might come out tired against Kenora,” McCabe admitted.
"We have played a fair bit of basketball lately and with three players out of the lineup in our game against Dryden on Tuesday, some players logged some major minutes.
“However, the girls came out sharp," he lauded. "We did seem to tire a bit in the fourth quarter but by then the game was well in hand.”
“The Thanksgiving weekend break could not have come at a better time for us,” he added.
The Muskies went into the game after having beaten the Dryden Eagles (3-1) by a 63-51 score there last Tuesday.
Fort High led 32-27 at halftime before outscoring Dryden 31-24 in the second half to hand them their first loss of the season.
“The win in Dryden on Tuesday was big for us and I thought there might have been a bit of letdown [against Kenora], but there really wasn't,” McCabe said.
As for players who have been instrumental to the Muskies' success so far this season, McCabe noted Alina Eldridge doesn't quite get the recognition she deserves as she's not usually a top scorer.
“Alina does not score much,” he conceded.
“But she plays great defence, passes very well, and although our big three of Ellie, Jamie, and Grace have accounted for much of our offence lately, Alina is so steady that teams have to be aware of her.”
The Muskies were missing Rachel Anderson and Janissa Judson in their two games last week as both were on an English/art trip to New York City.
McCabe was happy with how his squad fared without them, but noted there still are areas they need to be cognizant off moving forward.
With their annual home tournament set for this Friday and Saturday, McCabe knows the Muskies need to be good in all areas to achieve success.
“We incorporated a few new wrinkles while they [Anderson and Judson] were gone, so we need to get them up to speed,” he stressed.
“We also must continue to work on handling full-court pressure," he stressed. ”We have not been bad but with our skill level, it should not be disrupting us as much as it does.
“We are fortunate that Kenora has such a small team, in terms of size, that they almost have to press to have any chance against us,” McCabe noted.
"So we are getting a lot of opportunity to play against full-court pressure in games.
“Turning the ball over against the press was our downfall when we got blown out by St. Ignatius in Thunder Bay in our first tournament,” he recalled.
“And I expect with their quickness, Dryden will be incorporating some sort of press against us at the NorWOSSA finals, which is now less than a month away [Nov. 6 at Fort High] so we have to be prepared for that.”
The Muskies will resume NorWOSSA action this coming Tuesday (Oct. 16) when they host the Eagles.