CRYSTAL FALLS—At last! The preliminaries are over! Let the post-season begin!
Forest Park’s basketball team wrapped up its regular season here Feb. 20 with a 65-22 win over Rapid River. The game was delayed 24 hours by snow and blowing snow, but that seems fitting. Forces of nature are the only thing that has gotten in the Lady Trojans’ way for quite a while.
The team’s own force of nature, junior Lexi Gussert, led the way with 30 points, but since it was FP’s final home game before the tournament, the spotlight was on the team’s two seniors, Gina Graff and Ronnie Jaeger, who both started.
Forest Park finishes its season with a 19-1 record and 10-0 in the Skyline Conference.
All one way: The game was as one-sided and un-competitive as most of the Lady Trojans’ games this season. Forest Park scored 25 in the first quarter and led 45-10 at halftime.
“We just trapped them and ran on them early and often,” Coach Jeff Syrjanen said.
“We rotated everybody quickly in the first quarter. By midway through the second period, everybody had been in the game, and we kept rotating in.”
They had to rotate even faster once the Trojans’ lead reached 40 points late in the third quarter, starting the running clock. That was the only drama.
Helping many ways: Gussert scored 12 in the first quarter and 13 in the third. She left the game late in the third quarter, and the Trojans’ point production slowed quite a bit.
“It’s not that she would be shooting anyway,” her coach explained. “But she sets up the other kids so well. We score more when she’s on the floor [and not shooting]—sometimes I like to leave her in to help the other kids get better.”
Eleven of the 12 Lady Trojans scored. Graff scored six and Jaeger added three for the home fans.
Numbers: FP team: 27-62 (44%) FG, 6-18 (33%) 3’s, 5-12 (42%) FT, 25 rebounds, 14 steals. RR team: 9-41 (22%) FG, 1-4 3’s, 3-6 FT, 20 rebs.
FP stats: Lexi Gussert, 30 pts, 5x3, 8 rebs, 5 asts, 5 blocks, 4 steals; Gina Graff, 6 pts, 3 rebs, 5 asts; Sierra Robarge, 5 pts; Maria Stankewicz, 4 pts; Mary Grandahl, 4 pts, 4 rebs; Samantha Nylund, 3 rebs; Ronnie Jaeger, 3 pts, 3 rebs, 2 asts; Bradley, 4 pts. RR stats: Josie Miller, 14 pts.
Rockets 8 2 8 4 -- 22
Trojans 25 20 15 5 -- 65
Coming up: Forest Park hosts the District 127 tourney this week, and only one of the other four schools looks capable of giving the Lady Trojans a hard time: Ewen-Trout Creek, which takes on FP in the second semifinal game Feb. 27.
The Lady Trojans didn’t face ETC during the season, but Syrjanen watched the Panthers’ game at West Iron in mid-January. Later, Wykons Coach Mike Dallavalle gave him a video of the game to study.
The winner of FP-ETC faces Bessemer, Wakefield-Marenisco or Watersmeet in the championship game March 1 at 6 p.m. FP defeated Watersmeet in December and didn’t play the other schools.
The level of competition rises quickly at the Class D regionals, which start in Kingsford March 5.