Despite downing the Hammarskjold Vikings (Thunder Bay) 46-34 in the final game of the first-annual West End Motors Muskie Invitational senior girls’ basketball tournament here last weekend, the black-and-gold had to settle for second place.
With four of the six teams—including the Muskies—ending the two-day tournament with 2-1 records, Hammarskjold was awarded the gold medal by virtue of the better points-for-and-against ratio.
The Vikings outscored their opponents 138-102 (+36) while the black-and-gold held a 125-103 differential (+22).
But the fact the Muskies outhustled, out-rebounded, and outscored the talented Lakehead squad right from the opening tip-off left coach Gord McCabe smiling.
“I think that was the best game a senior girls’ basketball team has played since I’ve been here,” McCabe enthused of the team’s win over Hammarskjold.
On defence, veteran Christine Noonan completely shut down the Vikings’ top player in Tina Vlalun. Vlalun finished with 14 points but 11 of those came in the fourth quarter when the Muskies fell victim to Hammarskjold’s press while hanging on to a comfortable lead.
McCabe agreed Noonan was the key for the Muskies defensively while also pouring in eight points. But he also pointed to the strong play of Kelly Crawford and Melissa Gunsolus.
Meanwhile, Laureen Cousineau, Siobhan Devlin, and Sarah Noonan paced the team offensively. Cousineau led the way with 10 points while Devlin and the younger Noonan each added nine.
Cousineau and Saran Noonan each give the Muskies an outside presence, with their ability to shoot from outside or take the ball to the hoop. But there’s no question the team’s biggest key in the offensive end is Devlin and her 6’2” frame.
Devlin dominated inside all weekend, hitting baskets from underneath or grabbing an array of rebounds at both ends of the floor.
“It was surprising because Hammarskjold had a big team but [Devlin] dominated underneath,” McCabe said. “She jumps well, and she also blocks and alters a lot of [the other team’s] shots.
“I’m really pleased with her play,” he remarked.
Devlin certainly gives the Muskies a serious offensive threat under the basket, giving opposing teams another problem to worry about on defence. The team’s first look is inside but if that’s not there, they simply kick it outside.
“It gives us two different looks and allows us to try a lot of different things,” said McCabe, who nonetheless was cautious when asked if this is the best Muskie team he’s coached.
“It has the potential to be the best team,” he noted. “But I am certainly pleased with the way we have started.”
The Muskies opened the tournament in impressive fashion last Friday afternoon with a 46-33 win over Sir Winston Churchill (Thunder Bay). After struggling for three quarters, the hosts went on a 21-6 run in the fourth to ice the win.
McCabe said his team showed “a lot of character” in the comeback win, and felt Devlin kept them in the game until their guards eventually took over.
Devlin led all scorers with 19 points in that one while Sarah Noonan added 13.
But the game that cost the Muskies the tournament title was their second one Friday night, when they were less than sharp in a 36-33 loss to Fort William Collegiate (Thunder Bay).
The black-and-gold, who led 25-13 at halftime, were dismal shooting in the second half, connecting on just three of 25 from the field while scoring eight points.
Cousineau topped the Muskie scorers with 12 points while Sarah Noonan and Devlin each added seven.
The Muskies will see tournament action again this weekend when they travel to Thunder Bay.