No fewer than four Kingsford players surround Tanner Bartczak, as she tries to drive the lane during Forest Park’s home game on Dec. 9. Nearby, Kaitlin Shamion (22) is open for a pass.
CRYSTAL FALLS—“It was just nice to have some good home cooking!”
So said Forest Park girls basketball Coach Jeff Syrjanen after his Lady Trojans defeated Carney-Nadeau 58-38 before the home fans on Dec. 6.
But the leftovers must have spoiled in the fridge. Kingsford was the next team to visit the Eddie Chambers Gym on Dec. 9, and the Flivvers took the Lady Trojans apart 62-46.
After splitting their games last week, Forest Park is now 1-3 overall, 1-2 in the Skyline Conference.
Unlike their first two games, the Lady Trojans had no third quarter letdown against Carney. The Trojans struck hard in the first quarter, burying the Wolves 18-2, and went on to a 30-11 first half lead.
“We came out and pressured them real hard right away,” Syrjanen said, “and our press worked very well.” It forced turnovers from the Wolves that FP cashed in for points Both Lexi Gussert and Tanner Bartczak scored seven in the first quarter, and Syrjanen started inserting his reserves before the first eight minutes ended.
“We played real good defense, obviously. We were clicking on all cylinders.”
After that big start, the team coasted, and Syrjanen used different combinations of girls. At times the offense got out of sync, but it didn’t matter that much—Carney never got closer than 15 in the second half.
“It came down to our pressure and our inside game. It was a little too much for them—we were able to go inside on them and didn’t have to rely so much on our outside shooting.”
“It was very good to see all our players get on the floor. Everybody was in the game in the first half. We want to get people playing time when we can.”
Gussert and Bartczak led with 16 points each, and Audrey Sholander added 11.
FP shot 23 of 52 (44%) and made 12 of 17 at the free throw line. They had a 29-17 edge in rebounds (Gussert 9, Bartczak 8). Gussert led with four assists, and Sholander had seven steals.
The loss to Kingsford comes down to two main reasons: Kingsford clogged the middle on defense and was hot at the three-point line. They made 10 threes to the Trojans’ one.
“Nothing seemed to go right from the beginning,” Syrjanen said. “We started with three uncontested turnovers to start the game. Got ourselves in a hole right away and just never seemed to be able to battle out of it.
The Flivvers jumped away to a 6-2 lead early, and then the threes started raining down. Bombs away! Kingsford made two in the first quarter and four more in the second. By halftime, they led 33-21.
“It just got away early,” said the coach, “and we never were able to play our game at all.”
Threes were a deadly weapon: The Flivvers had the basket zeroed in, making 48% (10 of 21) of their three-point tries. Or, as Syrjanen put it, “If you shoot 48% on threes, you’re going to win.” FP made 1 of 7.
The Lady Trojans were also slow to close in on the Flivvers’ outside threats. “We weren’t covering their shooters—no matter what we said, we seemed to leave them.”
Freshman Courtney Qualley was ignored in the left corner too often. “Shooter!” Syrjanen called out to his girls. Qualley hit a three. “There’s your shooter!” She hit another three. Qualley hit four threes and led the Flivvers with 18 points.
At the other end, Kingsford maintained a tight zone in the middle that the Lady Trojans’ big girls, Gussert and Bartczak, rarely could penetrate successfully. While they scored at times, the Trojans couldn’t get a consistent offensive game going that might have loosened Kingsford’s clamp on the middle.
“We seemed totally out of sync,” the coach said. “Very ragged—not the type of basketball we’re used to playing.” After falling behind, the team started taking chances and got further away from what it does best. “It just got uglier and uglier.” Throw in some unforced errors and turnovers, which didn’t help.
Gussert led the Trojans with 15 points, Bartczak had 10, followed by Adel Isaacson at eight and Sholander at seven. Sholander led with six rebounds, and Gussert had four boards, two blocks and five steals.
Qualley’s four treys helped her to a game-high 18 points. Carlee Benzie scored 10, and three other Flivvers scored either eight or nine points. Kingsford shot 44% overall, Forest Park 40%.
• The Trojans host Mid Peninsula on Dec. 13 and will visit Watersmeet on Dec. 16. On Dec. 20, they are back home to face Florence, their final game before the holidays.
Wolves 2 9 15 12 -- 38
Trojans 18 12 16 12 -- 58
Flivvers 14 19 19 10 -- 62
Trojans 8 13 13 12 -- 46