Audrey Sholander finds a gap between four Bark River defenders and goes in for a shot during the Lady Trojans’ upset win Jan. 13.
CRYSTAL FALLS—It may have only been mid-January, but fans of Forest Park’s girls team got a good taste of playoff quality basketball Jan. 13 when Bark River-Harris visited at the Eddie Chambers Gym.
The Broncos came in undefeated this season, but they didn’t go home that way. With Lexi Gussert leading the way with 36 points, the Lady Trojans earned a very satisfying 63-58 win.
Bark River had won their two most recent encounters: last spring’s regional semifinal game and Forest Park’s second game this season. Who wants to bet these teams won’t meet once more at regionals in early March?
“Just a pretty doggone good team effort here,” said Coach Jeff Syrjanen. “Both teams left it on the floor,”
FP is now 6-4 overall and 4-2 in the Skyline Conference standings.
Busting the Broncos’ unbeaten season was accomplished with thrills, spills, ups and downs. The lead changed hands five times, and there were four ties. Bark River led by three at halftime, got the lead to seven early in the third quarter before Gussert led a rally that cut the gap to three, 46-43, as the fourth quarter began.
It started with Gussert blocking a shot and two baskets by Tanner Bartczak, off assists from Audrey Sholander and Gussert. Bartczak’s shooting put Forest Park back ahead, 47-46, and the Broncos wanted time.
Next, Gussert took charge. She hit a three from high on the left, then stole the ball, dashed in for a fast-break basket, was fouled on the play and added the free throw. The Trojans now led 53-46.
The Broncos got four points closer on free throws, but baskets by Gussert and Bartczak got them back. Bartczak’s free throw put FP ahead 58-50 with 2:52 left.
Bark River never backed down, and its backcourt and half-court defense meant Forest Park had to stay alert. “They have one of the better presses around,” Syrjanen said. “No doubt about it—that’s why they’ve been beating teams by 30, 40 points.
“We did turn over the ball a lot, but you’ve got to remember that’s one of the best presses we’ll see in the state.”
After BRH’s Jaime Madalinski scored on a rebound, the Trojans’ Kendra Campbell got a basket and free throw for a nine-point lead. The Broncos struck back with a three from Kylie Van Brocklin and, after a Trojan turnover, Madalinski’s two-pointer. Trojans by just four, 61-57, with 90 seconds left.
Forest Park turned over the ball twice and was whistled for traveling. Bark River had a shot blocked and missed a three. With 36 seconds left, Megan Derusha was fouled, missed one freebie but made the second: 61-58. Then Bark River’s defense forced a jump ball, giving the Broncos possession with 20 seconds left in a one-possession game.
In the end, though, Bark River never got a shot off. and two free throws wrapped up the Lady Trojans’ win.
Bark River had a great start to the game, with Sarah Madalinski scoring nine points for a 15-6 BRH lead late in the first quarter. Baskets by Bartczak, a two and a three from Gussert and a hoop from Adel Isaacson cut the lead down to size. Baskets by Bartczak and Gussert early in the second quarter gave the Lady Trojans their first lead.
That was the first of four lead changes in the second quarter. Two late baskets each by Jaime Madalinski and Derusha put BRH ahead 31-28 at halftime.
Both Madalinski girls scored early in the third quarter for a seven-point Bronco lead, but Gussert led the Lady Trojans back. She scored 11 points during a 13-6 FP rally to tie it up. It was a race from there.
Syrjanen said his thinks Bark River may have worn down late in the game. “A lot of it was, we played very good second half defense. We went into our zone and moved very well in the zone. We tried to keep the ball out of the Madalinskis’ hands. That’s very hard—they’re both good.” Jamie M. finished with 20 points, and Sarah M. scored 19.
Forest Park had the edge in shooting, hitting 55% from the floor (27 of 49) to Bark River’s 39% (21 of 54).
It comes down to Gussert, who had an incredible night. The team’s stat sheet shows her making 15 of 18 shots from the floor—3 of 6 three-pointers and 12 of 12 inside the arc. Total: 36 points, with 11 in the third quarter and 10 in the fourth. She also had 12 rebounds, four assists and three blocks.
“What can you say about Lexi?” said Syrjanen. “She just had a tremendous game. She put them in from every direction.”
She got strong support from Bartczak, who scored 14, half of them in the fourth quarter, and got seven boards. Isaacson scored six, and Campbell added five—both gave Forest Park a boost off the bench. “They handled the ball well.”
• The Lady Trojans visit North Dickinson on Jan. 17 and will host North Central Jan. 20. Syrjanen is certain to remind his team that the Jets upset Forest Park by two in the season opener Nov. 29, as the Trojans were adjusting from volleyball season.
On Jan. 23, the team travels to Iron Mountain.
Broncos 18 13 15 12 -- 58
Trojans 15 13 15 20 -- 63