Competition gets intense as two Trojans and two Wykons battle for a rebound. Forest Park’s Kendra Campbell (right) seems to have the best grip, but WIC’s Sierra Rasmussen (left) and Emilie Christensen also want it. FP’s Sierra Robarge (40) is nearby.
CRYSTAL FALLS—Putting that stumble against Kingsford behind them, Forest Park’s girls team added two road wins to its ledger last week, boosting its season record to 16-1. The Lady Trojans remain 10-0 in Skyline Conference action.
The team got off to a slow start against a stubborn Baraga squad on Feb. 4 but took control and won 68-56. West Iron also gave them problems in the first quarter, but not much longer—Forest Park dominated the final three quarters and won 61-39.
At West Iron: Although the final score was the same, the plot was different from Jan. 4, when the Wykons got blitzed 29-9 early at Forest Park.
On their home floor, West Iron stayed with Forest Park early and led for much of the first quarter. Two Emilie Christensen baskets, Kylee Erickson’s three and Alexis Golfis’ basket helped WIC to a 10-7 lead; it was tied 12-12 after one. Sierra Rasmussen’s putback gave WIC a brief lead early in the second quarter.
The Lady Trojans started in a zone press, but West Iron got through that OK. “We lost some people in the first quarter,” FP Coach Jeff Syrjanen said later. In the second quarter, the Lady Trojans switched to a full-court man-to-man defense. “Just pressure them and make sure you get good help,” he told his team.”
Forest Park’s top priority was shutting down Erickson’s outside shooting. “That’s their game,” Syrjanen said. “She’s such a good player, and we know it. She’s the heart and soul of their team.”
Last-minute: FP went ahead for keeps on Kendra Campbell’s three, her second triple and 10th point so far. The lead was only two (18-16) in the final minute of the half when Lexi Gussert struck, driving down the right side for two, then nailing a three with 18 seconds left. The Lady Trojans led 23-16 at halftime.
Christensen’s three-point play, steal and layup briefly got WIC within four (25-21) early in the second half, but FP took charge with a 10-2 rally, including a Gussert hoop, Maria Stankewicz’s rebound basket, two Gussert free throws and her driving hoop. After Erickson scored, Samantha Nylund converted Gussert’s pass for a 35-23 Trojan lead.
Forest Park gradually pulled away. Campbell’s third triple of the night highlighted another 10-2 rally midway through the second half.
Bench help: The Lady Trojans’ deeper bench gave them a big edge. West Iron stayed with its starters most of the night, while FP switched girls in and out, keeping fresher legs on the floor. “The rotation of so many people is what finally broke them,” Syrjanen said.
Gussert scored 10 in both the third and fourth quarters and finished with 32. Campbell backed her up with 15. For West Iron, Christensen led with 16, Erickson scored nine, and Rasmussen eight. Their strategy on Erickson worked: She only scored five after the first quarter.
Syrjanen sounded very satisfied with his team’s play at West Iron. “I think if we play that [same kind of] game against Kingsford, we don’t lose.”
Numbers: FP team: 24-60 (40%) FG, 6-18 (33%) 3’s, 7-12 (58%) FT, 37 rebounds, 16 turnovers. WIC team: 17-59 (29%) FG, 1-10 (10%) 3;’s, 4-9 (44%) FT, 18 rebs, 10 steals, 10 turnovers.
FP stats: Lexi Gussert, 32 points, 2x3, 12-25 FG, 14 rebs, 4 asts, 5 blocks; Kendra Campbell, 15 pts, 3x3, 11 rebs, 3 asts. WIC stats: Emilie Christensen, 16 pts, 3 steals; Kylee Erickson, 9 pts, 4 asts; Sierra Rasmussen, 8 pts, 5 rebs; Alexis Golfis, 3 steals; Megan Miatech, 6 rebs.
Trojans 12 11 19 19 -- 61
Wykons 12 4 13 10 -- 39
Vs. Baraga: The Vikings came out strong on Feb. 4, striking with several threes in the first quarter and leading 20-15 after one. Gussert kept FP close with 11 of her team’s points.
Baraga’s outside shots prompted FP to “go man” in the second quarter after using a zone earlier. “If they were able to get good looks, they were able to hit them,” said Syrjanen.
The Vikings’ offense dried up after FP went man. The visitors led 30-26 at halftime, and Gussert got more and more open as the night went on. When she was covered, Jessica Bawyn wasn’t—she scored 18 points, 14 of them in the second half.
“They were so conscious of where Lexi was going,” Syrjanen said, “that whenever she would drive, there were always two people with her.” But with Bawyn nearby. a quick pass meant two more points.
Syrjanen also noted the work of Kelsi Hendrickson and Adel Isaacson. “Such tremendous defense out there. It really changed the flavor of the game.” The Vikings played hard and well, going 100% (15 of 15) at the free throw line.
Numbers: FP team: 2x3, 12-17 FT, 15 fouls. Baraga team: 5x3, 15-15 (100%), 15 fouls.
FP stats: Gussert, 31 pts; Jessica Bawyn, 18 pts. Baraga scoring: Jenna Heikkinen, 14 pts, 2x3; Brittany Nieskes, 12 pts; Becca Larson, 11 pts, 3x3.
Trojans 15 15 20 18 -- 68
Vikings 20 6 18 12 -- 56
Coming up: Forest Park hosted Iron Mountain in a make-up date Feb. 11 and visits North Dickinson Feb. 14. The regular season ends with a home game against Rapid River on Feb. 19, a game originally scheduled back on Dec. 20.
The Lady Trojans host the District 127 tournament, which starts Feb. 25.