CRYSTAL FALLS—The Forest Park girls’ final game of the regular season went about as well as Coach Jeff Syrjanen could have hoped: He rested two girls who are dealing with injuries, and the Lady Trojans didn’t lose a step on their longest road trip of the season, defeating Mid Peninsula 61-30 on Feb. 21.
Forest Park ends the regular season with a 15-5 season record, 10-2 in the Skyline Conference.
A quick reminder: The two Skyline losses were FP’s first games of the season, after a shortened transition after the Lady Trojans played in the state volleyball quarterfinals. They lost by two to North Central on Nov. 29 and by three to Bark River-Harris on Dec. 3.
Forest Park won both rematches later in January—by five over Bark River and by 17 over North Central—and also avenged an earlier loss to West Iron County. Their other two losses were to Kingsford.
This week, the team plays in the Class D District 127 tournament at Bessemer. With that in mind, Syrjanen rested Audrey Sholander and Kendra Campbell against Mid Pen last week.
Sholander has been dealing with a shoulder injury, and Campbell has a sore hand. “We just wanted to protect them going into the tournament.”
Instead, freshman Adel Isaacson, who has been coming off the bench all season, got her first start and played 28 of the 32 minutes. “She did just fine out there,” said her coach. “She’s a good ball-handler and a decent shooter, too.”
Mid Pen has several tall girls, so the Trojans backed off their normal pressure game and concentrated on defending the middle. “Our guards just collapsed all over the posts all the time,” Syrjanen reported. “Even though they are smaller, they were able to battle them pretty well.”
He said Ana Cornelia and Isaacson focused on Krysta Van Damme in the high post. Earlier in the season, Van Damme scored 17 against FP. This time, she was held to 10. “We felt she [Van Damme] was the one we had to shut down.”
Syrjanen said the game’s outcome had more to do with Forest Park’s defense.
“Our defense really played well as a whole team. It’s good to see that with a couple injured players, other people stepped up, and we really didn’t seem to miss a beat out there.”
Leading the offense, Tanner Bartczak and Lexi Gussert both shot over 50% for the game and combined for 43 of FP’s 61 points. “It didn’t matter if they were taking it from outside or inside—they were hitting everything.
Gussert led the Trojans with 22 points and had nine rebounds and three blocks. Bartczak backed her up with 21 points and 10 rebounds plus two steals. Kaitlin Shamion scored eight.
“Tanner had an especially good game, battling taller girls. She was still able to get 10 rebounds and got some nice put-backs on missed shots. All-around, one of her best games of the year.”
On Fat Tuesday, the Trojans had a fat edge in rebounds, 28-12, and made 25 of 54 shots (46%) from the floor.
Van Damme and Hunter Branstrom both scored 10 points to lead the Wolverines.
• All eyes are on Bessemer this week for the Class D District 127 tournament. The Lady Trojans played Watersmeet (16-3) in a first round game Feb. 27—the winner of that one takes on Ontonagon (14-6) Wednesday, Feb. 29, at 6 p.m. in the first semifinal. In the second semi, Ewen-Trout Creek (13-7) faces either Bessemer (13-7) or Wakefield-Marenisco (1-18).
The District 127 championship game tips off at 7 p.m. Friday, March 2. Forest Park defeated Watersmeet back in December but didn’t play any of the other D127 teams this season.
The district champ advances to the regional tournament at Kingsford next week. The Bessemer district winner faces the Munising district champ at 6 p.m. March 6 in the first semifinal. The North Central and Lake Linden district champs tip off in the nightcap.
Trojans 14 19 15 13 -- 61
Wolverines 6 6 11 7 -- 30