CRYSTAL FALLS—A few weeks ago, Forest Park’s girls basketball team looked unsure of itself and unready for the new hoops season. After all, volleyball season extended well into November.
But volleyball memories are fading, and so are the Lady Trojans’ struggles. In their final game of 2011, the team had few problems racing to a 60-32 win over Florence at home Dec. 20.
“I told you it would take till Christmas,” Coach Jeff Syrjanen said after it ended. “They’re starting to come. Now we’ve got to keep the ride running, and hopefully we can do it.”
The team ran the floor with confidence all night. “It was a good win for us tonight,” the coach said. “We moved the ball well throughout the whole game and found the open shooters.”
FP is now 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the Skyline Conference. More than that, the Lady Trojans are playing with a lot more endurance.
Against the Bobcats, Forest Park took charge early. Kaitlin Shamion opened the game with a baseline shot for two, and Tanner Bartczak followed with a three and a two from the top. Baskets by Audrey Sholander and Lexi Gussert quickly put FP ahead 11-2.
Three Bartczak free throws, her assist to Sholander and a three by Gussert at the top gave FP a 20-6 lead after one quarter. “We were switching around defenses,” Syrjanen said, “and, for the most part, shared the ball very well. People moved and a lot of passing and cutting.”
The scoring pace slowed in the second quarter, but baskets by Gussert, Ana Cornelia and Kendra Campbell had the Lady Trojans ahead 29-10 at halftime.
Back-to-back baskets by Cornelia followed by another Gussert three pushed the lead to 38-14 in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, the lead reached 29 before the remaining starters were pulled.
FP’s only problem all night was Florence’s Aly Young, who found an open space to the left of the basket in the third quarter—teammates passed to her for 10 of her team-high 12 points. “We just didn’t seem to have an answer,” the coach said.
“They were hurting us down low in the blocks. We weren’t fronting—and when we did front, we weren’t betting backside help. That’s something we’re going to work on. Florence posts up very well.”
FP stayed in its man defense all night and the coach said Gussert did a very good job with Chyanne Schaut, the Bobcats’ 6-1 girl inside, who was held to eight points.
Gussert and Bartczak shared FP’s scoring lead with 14 points each. Campbell added 12, Sholander had nine, and Cornelia finished with six. “Pretty balanced scoring,” said Syrjanen. “Everybody was filling it up in the scorebook tonight.’
Gussert also had a hugs night under the basket, pulling down 17 rebounds, easily taking the team lead. Sholander led with four assists, and Bartczak, Sholander and Cornelia each had three steals.
The coach liked how Sholander “ran the floor perfectly” and that Cornelia “played some real good defense for us and got a couple buckets, too.” Both teams shot 37% from the floor.
“They’re playing with a little freshness now. We’re just happy to be at break time now—get a little rest and attack in the second half.”
• A little rest, but not a lot. This week, the team has practices Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and faces Calumet in a scrimmage Dec. 29.
Practices resume Monday, the day before a Jan. 3 game at Rapid River, “a big, big conference game.” On Jan. 6, the Lady Trojans head to West Iron, and the rematch with Bark River-Harris at home is coming up on Jan. 13. (Early team schedules had it on Jan. 10, but that was later changed.)
Bobcats 6 4 14 8 -- 32
Trojans 20 9 18 13 -- 60