Lexi Gussert gets ready to shoot from the lane, but she’d better hurry: West Iron’s Alexis Heimerl is moving in with an arm up to block.
CRYSTAL FALLS—Lexi Gussert did all she could for Forest Park at West Iron County on Jan. 6.
But except for their big sophomore, the Lady Trojans didn’t get a lot of scoring, and the Wykons held off FP 51-48 before a big crowd at the WIC gym.
On Jan. 3, the Lady Trojans came back from the holidays with a 50-39 win at Rapid River. They enter this week with a 5-4 record overall, 3-2 in the Skyline Conference.
Gussert led her team with 25 points against West Iron, including a pair of three-pointers that get Forest Park within a point of the Wykons in the final minute. But her shot from the corner in the dying seconds missed, and West Iron held on for the win.
Aside from Gussert, none of the Lady Trojans scored more than six (Tanner Bartczak and Kendra Campbell). “We’ve got to get more scoring out of the other girls,” Coach Jeff Syrjanen said later. Early in the game, he noted, his team wasn’t seeing Bartczak when she was open on the left side. “Lexi draws a lot of attention, and rightfully so.”
For West Iron, Shannon Koski led with 17 points, and four other Wykons scored seven, eight or nine points. Even without their top scorer, Jaclyn Waara (recovering from minor surgery), the Wykons had a strong offense.
The Lady Trojans played their kind of game in the first and third quarters, said their coach. “But then we got out of it.
“We got in a little foul trouble, and their big girls inside were hurting us—driving down low and taking us to the hoop. Tanner and Lexi each had three fouls, and then Lexi had four, so we had to back off a little bit.”
Both picked up their third fouls during the third quarter, when FP held a slim lead. Gussert got her fourth with 1:58 left in the game and the Wykons ahead 45-40.
Confusion broke out just before that, when the refs called a time-out Syrjanen didn’t want. “We were calling our ‘diamond’ press, and he thought she called ‘Time-out!’ and he said we had to take it.” That left him with just one for the final two minutes.
The Lady Trojans had one more rally left: Bartczak’s basket and Gussert’s two treys got FP within one, 49-48, with 13 seconds left.
Free throws had a big say in the outcome. West Iron wasn’t whistled for a foul in the last three minutes, while FP was called four times. WIC was 6 of 7 at the line down the stretch; FP, 0 for 0.
Overall, FP made 8 for 15 free throw tries. (Syrjanen: “We’re much better than that.”) WIC made 15 of 22.
At Rapid River, Syrjanen said his team started fast and had a 10 to 12-point lead midway through the second quarter. “Then we let them creep back in it”; the Rockets cut the lead to 21-18 at halftime.
The Trojans used a man-to-man defense focused on RR’s Kelly Bittner and Heather Sanderson. The last time the teams met, Bittner scored 24 and Sanderson had 16.
“Our goal was to stop them, and for the most part, we did.” With Gussert on Sanderson, and Audrey Sholander focused on Bittner, the two Rockets only combined for six points in the first half, 11 for the game.
“We were running the floor very well,” said the coach, “but we missed a lot of close-in shots. That’s unlike us.” With better shooting, “I don’t think the score would have been close.”
After the Rockets made a couple threes to start the second half, Syrjanen switched to a matchup zone defense. “They really didn’t have a good answer for it.”
Forest Park went on a 10-point run, including eight straight by Gussert, to build their lead and then took the air out of the ball. When the Rockets fouled, FP was 5 of 7 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Gussert led the Lady Trojans with 24 points (18 after halftime), and Campbell scored 12, followed by Sholander (7) and Bartczak (6). Campbell had rushed home in time to rejoin the team after performing with a dance unit at the Outback Bowl in Tampa the day before.
Gussert, Campbell and Bartczak led in rebounds with nine, seven and six, respectively. Gussert and Bartczak were both credited with three steals.
With Sanderson and Bittner neutralized, Rapid River’s top scorer was Nina Brockway, who scored 10 points, mostly on close-in shots and short rebounds.
• The Lady Trojans will host Bark River-Harris Jan. 13 in their only game this week. The Broncos, state finalists last March, edged Forest Park 55-52 back on Dec. 2.
Next Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Lady Trojans visit North Dickinson.
Trojans 12 9 14 15 -- 50
Rockets 6 12 10 11 -- 39