CRYSTAL FALLS—Any coach’s goal is to have his team playing its best when the post-season starts. To judge by how Forest Park’s girls team last week, Coach Jeff Syrjanen has to feel ready.
The Lady Trojans’ record went to 18-1 as they defeated Iron Mountain 68-31 on Feb. 11—holding IM to just four points in the second half—and raced past North Dickinson 81-36 on Feb. 14 in the Nordics’ gym. The team is 11-0 in the Skyline Conference.
Lexi Gussert’s week? She scored 36 points against the Mountaineers and 42 at North Dickinson.
Vs. Iron Mountain: The Mountaineers were powerless to stop Gussert in her own gym—putting them in the same boat as nearly every other U.P. team.
Against IM, the Trojans took a 22-11 first quarter lead, led by 11 at halftime … and then vaporized the Mountaineers 30-4 in the second half. IM made a bucket early in the half and two free throws. That was all.
Gussert finished with 36 points and buried seven three-pointers. Fifteen rebounds, eight assists, three blocks.
IM pressed Gussert early in a match-up zone, so the Trojans used Kendra Campbell at the high post—she burned IM for eight points in the first quarter, and Gussert scored 10 anyway. When Campbell left with two fouls, Mary Grandahl came in to help. In the second quarter, FP moved Gussert in the high post, and she scored another 10.
For the second half, Syrjanen put his team in its half-court diamond press and a 1-3-1 zone. “We used the 1-3-1 against Iron Mountain last year, and they had a hard time with it.” They did this time, too, with just one basket in the second half.
“Our half court trapping press bothered them a lot. We were able to get a lot of steals and breakaways,” usually ending with Forest Park points.
Numbers: FP team: 28-56 (50%) FG, 7-19 (37%) 3’s, 5-6 FT, 37 rebounds, 15 turnovers. IM team: 10-60 (17%) FG, 3-15 (20%) 3’s, 8-12 (67%) FT, 7 fouls, 27 rebs.
FP stats: Lexi Gussert, 36 points, 7x3, 15 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, 3 blocks. Kendra Campbell, 12 pts, 6 rebs; Maria Stankewicz, 8 pts; Sierra Robarge, 6 pts, 5 rebs, 3 asts; Samantha Nylund, 4 rebs, 5 asts. IM stats: Katelynn Johnson, 8 pts; Katie Brule, 7 pts; Abby Gerhard, 7 pts.
M’tneers 11 16 3 1 -- 31
Trojans 22 16 18 12 -- 68
At Nordics: Nordics Coach Mike Roell has a very young team this year and ND wore down in each half against the Red and Black juggernaut. “We played one of our best games,” Syrjanen said later.
Forest Park scored 26 points in the first quarter—20 by Gussert. She followed that with 11 in the second quarter and finished with 42 points and six three-pointers.
“She was in a zone,” said her coach. “She was 6 for 7 from the threes, and she was 17 for 22 from the floor, which is pretty phenomenal.” That’s a 77% shooting percentage.
Gussert left the game during the third quarter—fighting a cold—but the Lady Trojans scored 27 that quarter anyway, including threes from Kelsi Hendrickson, Ronnie Jaeger and Campbell.
“Our whole team played a very good up-tempo game. We were finding the open person, and got really good guard play from all four of our young guards, Everybody contributed.”
Numbers: FP team: 32-60 (53%) FG, 12-23 (52%) 3’s, 8-12 (67%) FT. ND team: 16-57 (28%) FG, 2-8 (25%) 3’s, 2-4 FT.
FP team: Gussert, 42 pts, 6x3, 5 asts, 2 stls, 2 rebs; Campbell, 10 pts, 2x3, 3 rebs, 3 asts; Ronnie Jaeger, 6 pts, 2x3; Sierra Robarge, 6 prs; Adel Isaacson, 6 pts, 4 rebs; Samantha Nylund, 5 rebs, 2 asts; Gina Graff, 5 rebs, 3 asts; Maria Stankewicz, 4 asts; Mary Grandahl, 4 pts, 2 rebs. ND stats: Miranda Jacobson, 12 pts; Chelsea Stroud, 8 pts; Eliz. Charlevoix, 6 pts.
Trojans 26 18 27 10 -- 81
Nordics 15 4 16 3 -- 36
Coming up: The Lady Trojans finish the regular season Feb. 19, finally playing the home game against Rapid River postponed on Dec. 20.
It won’t be the Lady Trojans’ final home date this winter: Forest Park hosts the Class D District 127 tournament starting Feb. 25. The Lady Trojans take on Ewen-Trout Creek in their tourney opener Feb. 27.
The Panthers (12-6 through last week) seem to be the only D127 team capable of giving the Lady Trojans any kind of a test. The other three all have five wins or less.