To be the best, you have to beat the best—and that's what the Muskie senior boys' basketball team is focused on.
The black-and-gold capped a wonderful season in NorWOSSA play with a championship crown as they beat the second-place Dryden Eagles 67-53 in the final Friday night in Kenora.
The Muskies (7-1) had earned a bye to the final by virtue of their first-place finish in the regular season while the Eagles advanced after downing the third-place Broncos 44-32 in the semi-finals that morning.
The Muskies now have their attention shifted to the best-of-three NWOSSAA championship, which is slated for this Friday and Saturday in Thunder Bay against the St. Ignatius Falcons.
“The mindset is we want to win, and we know our opponent is very skilled and work very hard,” Muskie co-coach Greg Ste. Croix said of the Falcons.
“We need to be at our best," he stressed. ”We'll need to play strong on both ends of the floor.
"They pressure the ball really well, so we'll need to break the pressure and get out and run the floor, limiting our turnovers and securing the ball on every play.
“I just want us to play the best basketball we can,” he added.
As for their win against the Eagles in the NorWOSSA final, the Muskies showed the dominance that had made them the team to beat all season.
Fort High led 34-23 at halftime before outscoring the Eagles 33-30 in the second half to secure the gold medal.
Kobi Ward scored a team-high 30 points while Wyatt Richards added 14 and Joel Ottertail chipped in 12.
“We started off slow and had some turnovers, maybe some early jitters,” Ste. Croix conceded.
"Once we settled in, we were able to lock in on defence, which led to getting out and running the break.
“We shot the ball well at times," he added. "At times our defence really got going, which made a big difference.”
Ste. Croix felt that Ward, Richards, and Ottertail all had strong games in the final and lauded their efforts in the victory.
He also cited some other key contributors, as well.
“Kaden Kocuiba also had a very good game. He scored some big baskets in the second half,” Ste. Croix lauded.
"Ben Smith has some big rebounds for us, as well.
“The Eagles were physical on both ends of the floor and they rebounded the ball well," he recalled. ”They got some easy points on breaking our press and we didn't adjust as quick as we wanted.
“But when we made the necessary adjustments, we played really well," he enthused, adding it was "a very strong team win.”
As for the junior Muskies, the squad saw their season come to an end with a 43-30 loss to the second-place Eagles in the NorWOSSA semi-final Friday morning in Kenora.
The Muskies had finished the regular season in third place with a 2-6 record while the host Broncos (7-1) had earned the bye to the final by virtue of their first-place finish.
The Broncos then capped their impressive season by winning gold with a 47-37 win over the Eagles (3-5) in the final that afternoon.