Forest Park’s girls hold their third straight District 127 championship trophy. Front row, from left: Ronnie Jaeger, Adel Isaacson, Maria Stankewicz, Samantha Nylund, Sierra Robarge, Kelsi Hendrickson, Susie Toivonen, Melina Doering. Back row: Kaitlyn Bradley, Gina Graff, Rachel Roose, Kendra Campbell, Lexi Gussert, Jessica Bawyn, Mary Grandahl, Assistant Coach Jackie Giuliani, team managers Claudia Nocerini and Hannah Cross and Coach Jeff Syrjanen.
CRYSTAL FALLS—Too much! Too easy!
As expected, Forest Park girls team had no trouble at all winning its third straight Class D District 127 championship on their home court last week.
The Lady Trojans ran past Ewen-Trout Creek 67-30 in the semifinal game Feb. 27 and stifled Watersmeet 60-19 in the title game, March 1. They didn’t wait around, either: FP outscored their opponents by a combined 39-5 in the first quarter.
So add two more wins to Forest Park’s season record, which now stands at 21-1. This week, they face more serious competition, as they move out of the shallows into the deeper water at the Class D regional tourney in Kingsford.
“We knew right away to come out hard,” said star junior Lexi Gussert after the trophy presentation. “That’s how we set the tone. In both district games, we came out hard. That’s what set us up.
“I think we can finish stronger. I don’t think we’re playing to our full potential yet. Every time we come out strong, we play our best.”
Vs. ETC: This was the only game in the D127 tourney in which two teams with winning records went head to head—and it was still a mismatch.
The Trojans blasted the Panthers 21-0 in the first quarter, with Gusset scoring 14 points. By halftime, the Trojans led 28-11, and Gussert was up to 25. She finished with 44, hitting six three-pointers along the way.
Sierra Robarge scored 10 for FP. ETC was led by Brittany Suomumaki, who scored 12, and Taylor Niemi, with eight points, including a pair of triples.
Numbers: FP team: 26-61 (43%) FG, 7-21 (33%) 3’s, 7-12 (58%) FT; 8 turnovers, 13 steals, 33 rebounds. ETC team: 11-39 (28%) FG, 3-8 (38%) 3’s; 5-6 (83%) FT, 17 turnovers, 12 rebounds.
FP stats: Lexi Gussert, 44 points, 6x3, 12 rebs, 3 asts, 3 stls; Sierra Robarge, 10 pts, 3 rebs, 3 asts; Samantha Nylund, 5 rebs; Kendra Campbell, 3 rebs; Kelsi Hendrickson, 4 stls. ETC stats: Brittany Suomumaki, 12 pts; Taylor Niemi, 8 pts.
Panthers 0 11 10 9 -- 30
Trojans 21 17 19 10 -- 67
Vs. Watersmeet: The Lady Trojans didn’t pitch a first quarter shutout, but they scored the first 14 points and led Watersmeet 18-5 after one. By halftime, it was 34-9.
Gussert led the early scoring blitz with 15 points in the first half, and the Lady Trojans also got scoring from Kendra Campbell, who added seven points in the first half.
Gussert finished with 21 points, and four teammates scored either six or seven points (Campbell, Maria Stankewicz, Jessica Bawyn and Ronnie Jaeger, who connected on two three-pointers in the fourth quarter).
“We asked our other kids to step up,” Coach Jeff Syrjanen said. “We know that when we get into the bigger games, we can’t just rely on one shooter.”
The plan: But the Trojans aren’t all offense. It’s their defense that makes life miserable for opponents. FP played aggressive man defense, presses in the backcourt, steals the ball in the frontcourt and usually cashes in all those turnovers.
“We tried to stay in our game plan as long as we could,” the coach said. “We can’t be worrying about what another team has. I have to worry about us down the road, because we know we’re going to see some heavy challenges in Kingsford.
“We know that, so we’re trying to focus on just us getting better. That was our main goal tonight. It was more or less taking care of business and playing our kind of basketball.”
Numbers: FP team: 24-62 (39%) FG, 7-17 (41%) 3;s, 6-8 (75%) FT, 15 steals. Watersmeet team: 8-46 (17%) FG, 2-17 (121%) 3;s, 1-6 (17%) FT, 18 rebounds.
FP stats: Gussert, 21 pts, 13 rebs, 7 asts, 3 stls; Campbell, 7 pts, 3 stls; Jessica Bawyn, 7 pts; Maria Stankewicz, 6 pts, 3 asts; Ronnie Jaeger, 6 pts, 2x3; Robarge, 5 rebs; Gina Graff, 5 rebs, 3 stls; Nylund, 7 rebs. Watersmeet stats: Frannie Zelinski, 6 pts, 10 rebs, 5 stls; Michaela Burke, 5 pts.
Nimrods 5 4 2 8 -- 19
Trojans 18 16 10 17 -- 61
Coming up: Now it gets interesting. This week is the Class D regional at Kingsford, and the Lady Trojans face Lake Linden-Hubbell at 6:45 p.m. in the second semifinal game March 5.
The winner advances to face the winner of North Central vs. Superior Central in the championship game March 7 at 6 p.m. The Cougars are unbeaten this season.
“We’re going to play more physical teams,” Gussert said during the post-trophy hubbub. “We just have to play our hearts out, because anything can happen from now on.”
The regional champ moves on to the state quarterfinals March 12 at either Escanaba or Sault Ste. Marie. The water keeps getting deeper, so it’s either sink or swim.