It was a weekend full of learning and improvement and the Muskie senior girls' basketball team will be better off for having experienced it.
The Muskies compiled a 1-3 record at a pre-season senior girls' basketball tournament hosted by Lakehead University on Friday and Saturday, where they faced some of the best teams Thunder Bay has to offer.
“Although we went 1-3, I was actually extremely pleased with our play,” enthused Muskie coach Gord McCabe.
"Given that we are instituting a whole new offence, I thought the girls did a really good job. When we ran it well we were very good.
“When we started to run around and got out of our offence, we had some problems,” he conceded.
“However, I thought we showed great improvement as the weekend progressed.”
Despite Fort High hanging tough with the St. Ignatius Falcons through the first three quarters in the opener on Friday afternoon, it was the Falcons who pulled out a 56-42 win.
Grace Petsnick led the way offensively for the Muskies with 21-point performance while Janissa Judson, Alina Eldridge, and Simone Payne chipped in with four points each.
Carmen Hebert added three while Rachel Anderson, Bella Ward, and Jamie Spencer scored a basket each.
“In our game with St. Ignatius, it was a two-point game until Grace Petsnick fouled out early in the fourth quarter and then the wind went out of our sails a bit,” McCabe conceded.
But the black-and-gold rebounded in a big way that evening with a convincing 51-35 win over the St. Patrick Saints.
Spencer netted a team-high 11 points in that one while Judson notched 10.
Joanna Empey scored seven points, while Petsnick and Hebert had six apiece and Ward and Keisha DeBungie both chipped in four.
On Saturday morning, the Muskies were dumped 48-22 by the talented Hammarskjold Vikings.
Petsnick netted seven points, Empey had six, Spencer chipped in four, while Judson added three and DeBungie recorded a lone basket.
Fort High then ended tourney play that afternoon with a 52-44 loss to the Saints.
Spencer scored a team-high 16 points in a losing cause while Petsnick added 13.
“In our game against Hammarskjold, we were just flat offensively and nothing would drop,” McCabe recalled.
"Our last game, a loss to St. Patrick's—who actually won the tournament—was our best game of the four.
That may sound funny given that we had beaten them the night before, but the Friday game was an 'extra' that did not count in the tournament standings," he explained.
"Their coach has a lot of players, so he used that game to give his bench some extended minutes. I told the girls before the Saturday game with St. Pat's that they would be a lot tougher— and they were. They have one girl who they list six-foot-three and she is all of that.
“Although we did a decent job of denying her the ball inside, when she did get it, she could basically shoot and grab her own rebound until she made it, so she really hurt us,” he added.
McCabe felt as though the individual skill of the Thunder Bay teams posed the biggest challenge for the Muskies, as they have girls on each team who can drive the lane with a lot more authority than all but a couple of players in the NorWOSSA league.
“They also shoot the ball from the outside very well and we will have to work on our perimeter defence to try and take that away,” he stressed.
The Muskies were slated to open the NorWOSSA season yesterday against the host Kenora Broncos, with the score unavailable at press time.
McCabe feels as though his squad's experience over the weekend playing tough opponents in their tourney pool will only help them as they move forward in league play.
“If we had been in the other pool we might have had much better results in terms of wins and losses, as the LU coach told me he had structured the pools to try and make competitive games and minimize blowouts. At this point in the season that can do nothing but help us,” he reasoned.
"I am almost certain that one of the teams we played this weekend will win the Thunder Bay championship and frankly, if we are able to win NorWOSSA, which is far from a certainty, I think we can play with any of them.
A lot can change in two months,“ he conceded. "They will definitely get better—but so will we.”