The Rainy River Owls' junior and senior girls' basketball teams have battled hard and shown good resilience so far this season.
That was exemplified even further in their wins over the visiting Red Lake Rams in the NorWOSSA 'A' regular-season finale last Wednesday afternoon.
The juniors romped to a 46-12 win over the Rams to finish with an unblemished 7-0 record.
As such, the Owls earned a bye to tomorrow's NorWOSSA final in Kenora, where they will face the winner of today's semi-final between the host St. Thomas Aquinas Saints and Atikokan Voyageurs.
“We have three practises scheduled before [the] playoffs, so we need to keep working hard and I think we will have a great chance next week,” Owls' head coach Corey Smith said Friday afternoon.
“We finished the season in first [place] and we will take on the winner of Atikokan and T.A. for the gold.”
It was all Owls early on in last Wednesday's win over the Rams.
RRHS started the game on an 8-0 run, not allowing Red Lake to score its first basket until the final two seconds of the opening quarter.
The Owls then upped the lead to 22-5 at halftime before outscoring the Rams 24-7 over the final two quarters.
Tala Quran scored a team-high nine points to pace the offence.
“Having fun and doing the little things before playoffs next week,” Smith said about what his team's key to success was against the Rams.
“Everyone got a lot of minutes and it was a great way to end the regular season.”
As for the seniors, they needed to beat Red Lake—or lose by less than five points—in order to qualify for today's semi-final against the Voyageurs.
They did just that by going on a late 9-0 run to down the Rams 39-30 and finish the regular season with a 5-3 record.
“I was happy they were able to pull off that win,” enthused head coach Rebecca Tolen.
“I felt we always had control of the game but it definitely wasn't showing on the scoreboard,” she noted.
"We just kind of fell apart for a minute each quarter and that really came back to bite us.
“Scoring those nine points quickly in the final quarter was a testament to how bad they wanted the win,” Tolen added.
“That win was the difference between second and fourth place, and the difference between going to playoffs and not.”
If the Owls were victorious today (the outcome wasn't known as of press time), they would face the top-ranked Saints in tomorrow's final.
Tolen admitted she was feeling nervous ahead of the playoffs, and that her team needed to clean up some parts of their game in order to have success.
“Honestly, my team is still struggling with the post shot," she noted. ”We can get five or six rebounds in a row and not put it through the hoop.
"Also while our transition game is improving, it still needs work.
“Atikokan will want revenge for their loss last week,” Tolen predicted.
“Also, their scores against other teams do not reflect the loss to us," she added. ”They beat the same teams we beat with wider margins than we did, but then lost to us.
"That does speak to the fact that our defence is strong and as long as we can put the ball through that hoop, we should be OK.
“The game against T.A. will be incredibly tough" Tolen conceded. "They are strong, fast, skilled, and tall, but we have been working on our transition in order to slow them down.”
As for last Wednesday's win over the Rams, the Owls started off strong and led 17-10 at halftime.
The Rams trimmed it to 29-23 after the third quarter and ended up knotting it at 30-30 with just over two minutes to go in the fourth.
But the Owls settled down and locked in, scoring nine-straight points down the stretch to preserve the win and book their ticket to the semi-final.
Aynsley Williams led the Owls offensively with an 11-point performance while Lynelle Westover added nine points and Lillian Blakeney chipped in eight.