CRYSTAL FALLS—The Forest Park girls’ slow start to the 2011-12 season appears to be over.
The Lady Trojans won twice last week to even their season record—they are now 3-3 overall and 2-2 against Skyline Conference foes. After taking apart Mid Peninsula 67-34 on Dec. 13, the team visited a tough nonconference opponent, Watersmeet, and won on the Nimrods’ floor 50-33.
“It was a good win for us,” said Coach Jeff Syrjanen. “Knowing that they’re in the same district with us and that they always have a good program, we wanted to set the tone right away that we’re one of the teams to beat this year.”
First, they hosted Mid Pen. Forest Park was a little flat early, but switching to a pressing defense turned things around. “It didn’t so much bother them,” he explained, “as it picked up our pace. We started playing a little more aggressively, and we ran the floor very well.”
Mid Pen has a big team, with 6-2 and 5-10 girls. “We were able to counter that with our quickness and our speed.” Lexi Gussert was hot from outside, connecting on three triples in the first quarter—the last was right at the buzzer from near half-court.
The Trojans led 15-4 after one quarter and kept going after that. Syrjanen already was using his reserves by the end of the first half. The offense was in cruise control for most of the second half.
It was the first varsity game for Kendra Campbell, just promoted from the JV team. She scored 10 points in 13 minutes.
“She ran the floor very well and gave us a little presence in the post when we wanted to move our shooters outside. That helped loosen things up a lot.”
Gussert finished with 22 points, plus six blocked shots and four assists. Audrey Sholander had six steals. The Trojans outrebounded Mid Pen 29-18—Tanner Bartczak was high with eight. For the night, FP shot 35%.
On Dec. 16, the Trojans traveled to Watersmeet to face an opponent entering the game with an unbeaten record. .
That didn’t seem to bother the Lady Trojans, who raced out to a 13-0 lead in the first minutes, 11 by Gussert. But after she tired and Sholander joined her on the bench with two fouls, the Nimrods roared back and only trailed 15-11 after one quarter. “They really came after us with pressure. We weren’t taking good care of the ball.”
Gussert and Sholander returned in the second quarter—Adel Isaacson took over ball-handling duties after Sholander picked up her third foul. The Trojans also switched to a trapping zone defense. “We really got excellent defense from the whole team, and that really seemed to mess with them [the Nimrods]—I think they are more comfortable against the man [defense].”
At the other end, the Lady Trojans got another surge on offense—Campbell came off the bench to score seven in the second quarter and Bartczak added six more, boosting the Trojans to a 32-21 halftime lead.
Gussert started the second half by hitting a three-pointer, boosting the lead to 14. “From then on, they never really got any closer.” FP “took the air out of the ball” in the fourth quarter, working the ball around and running down the clock.
Before the game, the coach said he challenged Gussert and Bartczak to hit the boards hard, and they did ever—Bartczak pulled down 14 rebounds, and Gussert had 10. “A really nice game on the boards for us.”
Gussert finished with 26 points and was backed up by Campbell (9), Bartczak (6) and Sholander (5). Other stats: Bartczak, three steals; Gussert, two blocks; Sholander, five steals (“a really good defensive game”) and Campbell, five boards and three steals. The coach also talked about the contributions by Kaitlin Shamion (“a nice floor game”) and Ana Cornelia (four rebounds as a guard).
FP shot 39% (18-46) from the floor and hit 4 of 10 threes. They made 10 of 13 free throws.
• The Lady Trojans close out their pre-holiday schedule with a Dec. 20 home game against Florence. They return to action at Rapid River on Jan. 3.
Wolverines 4 11 9 8 -- 34
Trojans 15 12 19 21 -- 67
Trojans 15 17 12 6 -- 50
Nimrods 11 10 9 3 -- 33