It was a much harder-earned silver medal for the Muskie girls’ senior basketball team than one might have expected.
The senior girls first defeated the Kenora Broncos 43-40 in the NorWOSSA semi-final here Friday—a game in which the Muskies had to stage an unexpected comeback after leading 31-23 heading into the fourth quarter.
They followed that match with a grinding 20-14 loss to the first-place Dryden Eagles in the league final later in the day.
“They showed a lot of character for a young team,” Muskie head coach Ian Simpson said of his squad.
The black-and-gold had finished the regular season in second place by virtue of a 3-8 record, but were mismatched against the undefeated Eagles.
“This has been our best game against Dryden all year,” Simpson said, adding the fourth quarter of the final, in which the Muskies outscored the Eagles 6-3, was “our best quarter” of the season.
While the final was hard-fought, Fort High was lucky just to get there.
After leading the Broncos (1-7) throughout the semi-final, Kenora closed the eight-point gap with a string of unanswered baskets to start the fourth quarter, knotting the game at 31-31.
“It was a hard game, but I think we played better than we have all season,” Jamie Holliday said.
The team got itself in a bit of a hole on travels and offensive fouls when they did manage possessions early in the fourth, but showed a lot of poise in sinking free throws with the pressure on in the dying minutes.
Not to mention that for the spectators, it was one of the few games of the NorWOSSA playoffs (or the entire season, for that matter) with a score in doubt late in the game.
“It was nice to have a game and a score that close,” Taylor Meyers admitted.
Certainly the fans on hand appreciated the good show. A large Kenora contingent cheered uproariously with each Bronco basket, leading the home crowd to compete and build a deafening, tense atmosphere.
Who doesn’t love a basketball game like that?
“I don’t,” Simpson chuckled. “I don’t know what happened . . . they had a few quick three point shots which gave them some momentum, and we had to fight to get that momentum back.”
The final against the Eagles was decidedly anti-climactic. The girls were on the wrong end of a 9-5 score at halftime and despite their strong fourth quarter, could not make up for a third where Dryden outscored them by a 8-3 margin.
“They’re a good team. They’re fundamentally sound,” Simpson said of the Eagles. “I hope they do well against Thunder Bay in the NWOSSAA championships.”
Unfortunately, the Muskies’ junior counterparts had an even tougher time against Dryden, falling 41-20 to the Eagles in the semi-final to put the wraps on a winless season.
Fort High trailed 20-8 at the half but doubled their point total in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points.
“You know what, I got a full effort. I got what I wanted out of my team,” head coach Dan Bird said. “Dryden definitely beat us in the first half, which was the point difference.
“We just didn’t get the shots.”
With nothing left but the off-season, there’s nothing to do but ready for next year.
While Simpson doesn’t want to guess how his team might look next season (“I don’t like to make predictions and assumptions,” he said), Meyers had one word: “OFSAA.”
Did she really predict this team will not just win gold at next year’s NorWOSSA, but also take the NWOSSAA crown?
“Yeah, I did, actually,” Meyers said. “When we were in juniors, we played the same players we’ll be playing next year and we owned them.
“We pretty much have that whole team with that whole year of senior experience.”
Only time will tell if Meyers is prophetic or just cocky.