CRYSTAL FALLS—Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold.
With subzero temperatures visiting the area, last Friday night was certainly cold enough, and the Lady Trojans avenged another early season loss Jan. 20 with a 57-40 win over North Central.
The week started with a 58-28 victory at North Dickinson Jan. 17. The two wins boost the Lady Trojans’ record to 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the Skyline Conference.
North Central’s girls program has improved a lot in recent years, and the Jets earned their first win over Forest Park in memory, 49-47, back on Nov. 29. That was FP’s season opener, days after most of the girls played in the volleyball state quarterfinals.
The Trojans also lost their second game, at Bark River later that same week, but won the rematch on Jan. 13.
Coach Jeff Syrjanen said the Jets’ goal was to stop Lexi Gussert with a box-and-one defense. “They just shadowed Lexi wherever she went.” And it worked. Gussert was held to 10 points, one of her lowest point totals of the season.
“But because of that, it opened up our outside shooting for Kendra Campbell and Audrey Sholander, and they hit the threes. That really was the game.”
The Trojans connected on six threes: three by Sholander and two by Campbell. “I’ve known all along that we have these shooters. They’re all good shooters.” Now North Central knows, too.
Gussert, said her coach, is quite content to look for her teammates if opponents are focused on stopping her. “Last night, she just worked the boards, got steals, played defense and worked hard to get her teammates open shots.”
The Trojans led 16-7 after the first quarter. In the second quarter, Campbell scored eight points, and Sholander added six. But after Tanner Bartczak was called for her third foul and had to take a seat, Forest Park lost height. “It’s just a bad matchup for us” against the Jets’ big girls inside.
North Central scored 18 in the second quarter, much of it on free throws. But Bartczak returned in the third quarter and scored seven points, helping the Lady Trojans build a 21-point lead. The Jets kept fighting, cutting into the lead but never getting close enough to cause concern.
FP’s defense made a big difference. “We defended very well.” Gussert guarded sophomore Morgan Wells, who scored 17 in that November game. This time, Wells was held to eight. Taylor Granquist led NC with 11 points (five on second quarter free throws), and Dana Rochon added nine (three triples).
Sholander led the Lady Trojans with 17 points, followed by Bartczak at 16, Campbell at 12 and Gussert’s 10. Four girls in doubles figures. “That’s what we’ve been looking for all year.”
FP shot 42% to the Jets’ 40% but held them to just 35 shots. “We really shut them down. They like to get the ball inside to their bigger girls, and they just couldn’t do it.”
FP made 13 of 17 free throws. Gussert had six steals, and Sholander and Bartczak had three each. Sholander led with four assists.
Against North Dickinson, the Lady Trojans quickly took a 15-4 lead in the first quarter and moved on to a 34-14 halftime lead. Forest Park backed off its press after the first quarter, and everybody got to play before halftime.
The Nordics this year are young and don’t have a lot of size. “We were able to run on them quickly,” said Syrjanen, “and get some easy buckets in transition. Our defense played well.”
ND played even with the Lady Trojans in the third quarter, but Forest Park had another big run early in the fourth. The reserves saw plenty of minutes in the second half.
Gussert led the team with 17 points, to go with eight rebounds, five steals and four blocks. Sholander added 10, and Bartczak scored nine.
Brittany Charlevoix led the Nordics with nine points.
• The Lady Trojans visited Iron Mountain Jan. 23. They will be home to face Rapid River this Thursday, Jan. 26, before a trip to Carney-Nadeau Jan. 30.
Trojans 15 19 9 15 -- 58
Nordics 4 10 8 6 -- 28
Jets 7 18 9 6 -- 40
Trojans 16 18 13 10 -- 57