CRYSTAL FALLS—A mental miscue put Forest Park’s girls in an early hole at Kingsford Feb. 2, and the Lady Trojans had to play from behind nearly all night in a 50-46 loss to the Flivvers.
“We had our chances [at the end],” said Coach Jeff Syrjanen. “We got some shots, but they just didn’t fall.”
The team’s week started with a 67-41 win at Carney-Nadeau Jan. 30, as Lexi Gussert and Audrey Sholander both scored in the 20s and Gussert earned a triple double. Entering this week, the team is 11-5 overall and 8-2 in Skyline Conference play.
The mistake at Kingsford came in the opening minutes, when Forest Park failed to cover outside shooter Brittany Pugh on consecutive inbounds plays. Pugh got the pass and fired back-to-back three-pointers, helping the Flivvers lead 20-14 after the first quarter.
“We knew the plays were there,” said the coach later. “We told them how to defend them. We went to the corner to cover—and then started retreating.
“We corrected it after the first two, but the damage was done.” All three of the Flivvers’ triples were in the first quarter.
Kingsford built a 12-point lead, but the Lady Trojans started catching up in the second after switching to a man defense. Kaitlin Shamion scored six in that quarter.
Down 30-24 at halftime, Forest Park continued its fightback in the third quarter, switching back to a zone—and playing it better than before. “That really got us back into the game.” The Trojans got their first lead near the start of the fourth quarter.
The final eight minutes went back and forth. Kingsford went ahead by five, but Tanner Bartczak’s three chopped the gap to two. When the Flivvers went into a stall, FP (with only two team fouls at that point) had to start fouling quickly to put Kingsford at the free throw line.
With 14 seconds left, Shamion’s three-pointer cut the Flivvers’ lead to one. 47-460—but Syrjanen said the refs didn’t notice him calling a time-out so FP could set up its press. In the end, Carlee Benzie was fouled, made two free throws (49-46), the Trojans missed a trey, and a final Flivver free throw ended the game.
FP rallied despite losing Kendra Campbell, who hurt her shooting hand during the first quarter but still played most of the first half. The coach said he saw she was still in pain at halftime and held her out after that. The extent of the injury is unknown.
Gussert led the Trojans with 20 points, and Shamion was second high with 11. “Kaitlin had a real nice night shooting—she was hotter than a pistol. She hit them all from the outside, which was a big help.” The Flivvers held Bartczak to six points (a pair of threes) and Sholander to three.
Gussert had eight rebounds, and Campbell had four before exiting. Sholander had four assists, and Gussert had three. For the Flivvers, Andrea Roell led with 17 points, and Benzie added eight. Pugh’s two early triples were her only points.
Kingsford had an edge in shooting (46% to 35%) and at the free throw line (11 of 16 to FP’s 5 of 10).
At Carney on Jan. 30, the Wolves tried a box-and-one defense in hopes of limiting Gussert.
“Once we figured it out,” said Syrjanen, “it created a lot of shooting lanes, especially for Audrey.” Sholander scored 16 points in the first half, Gussert beat the box and had a big half anyway, and Coach Syrjanen started running his rotations early.
In the second half, it was more Lady Trojan offense. “We just put five people outside and started trying to find the seams in the four-person zone. We were able to penetrate it pretty well.”
Sholander led FP with 23 points, and Gussert backed her up with 22—plus 13 rebounds and 10 assists. “They were trying to focus on her,” said the coach, “and it obviously didn’t work because we have more weapons and were able to score.” Bartczak and Ronnie Jaeger both scored six for FP.
The subs got plenty of time in the fourth quarter, but always with a starter on the floor—Carney pressed from start to finish. Morgan Eichhorn led the Wolves with 17 points, including five triples.
The Trojans hit six triples, three by Gussert. The Trojans shot 52% from the field (28 of 54) to Carney’s 28%.
• The Lady Trojans play three of their last four regular season games at home. After hosting Baraga Feb. 6, West Iron is next on the dance card on Feb. 9. FP gets a week off before North Dickinson visits on Feb. 16.
The team finishes the regular season Feb. 21 at Mid Peninsula. The District 127 tourney starts Feb. 27 at Bessemer.
Trojans 17 22 15 13 -- 67
Wolves 6 9 11 15 -- 41
Trojans 14 10 10 12 -- 46
Flivvers 20 10 6 14 -- 50