CRYSTAL FALLS—For the second straight year, Forest Park junior Lexi Gussert was selected U.P. Class D girls player of the year during the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association annual basketball meeting, held March 27 at Northern Michigan University.
Her honor is the latest in a long line of post-season awards, including Skyline Conference MVP and defensive MVP, Associated Press Michigan Class D player of the year, and selection to the all-class “dream teams” of the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and B-CAM.
Gussert and St. Ignace junior Kelley Wright were the only nominees for the U.P. Class D top player honors at the UPSSA meeting, and Gussert got 21 of the 23 votes.
Lexi is being heavily recruited by many top NCAA Division 1 women’s programs, and many offers have already been made. Schools who sent coaches or scouts to Forest Park games during the season—including many who made return visits—include Purdue, Marquette University, Illinois, Michigan State, Tennessee and Connecticut (U-Conn).
This year, she led the Lady Trojans to a 23-2 season in which they were ranked second or third statewide in Class D all season.
Gussert scored 809 points, an average of 32.5. She also averaged 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocked shots. She made 49% of her field goal attempts, including 47% of her three-point shots, and 82% of her free throws.
Over the season, she made 93 three-pointers, which Coach Jeff Syrjanen said is No. 2 in Michigan state history.
Lexi had 17 games when she scored 30 or more, four games of 40 or more and set a school record when she scored 50 points at Rapid River. In the Lady Trojans’ loss to eventual state champion St. Ignace at the Class D quarterfinals, she scored 30 of her team’s 45 points. Her low total this season was 20.
Her career scoring total now stands at 1,891 points (477 as a freshman, 605 as a sophomore, 809 this year). Late in the season, she surpassed the old Forest Park school career record of 1,806, set by Kim Hautala during the 1990s.
Teammate Kendra Campbell, also a junior, received honorable mention in the voting. Syrjanen was nominated for girls Class D coach of the year, but St. Ignace’s Dorene Ingalls won the honor after her undefeated Saints won the state Class D title.
West Iron County had two seniors voted to the Class ABC second team: Kylee Erickson was voted to the girls second team, and Austin Waara was named to the boys second team. It was the second time Erickson received all-U.P. honors in basketball.
Forest Park junior Austin Snell received special mention after missing a place on the Class D boys second team by three votes.
Dream team: Elisa Jurmu (jr.), Houghton; Hunter Viitala (soph.), Marquette; Vanessa Freberg (jr.), Superior Central; Lexi Gussert (jr.), Forest Park; Kelley Wright (jr.), St. Ignace.
Class ABC first team: Carlee Benzie, Kingsford; Bailey Grayvold, Norway; Michelle Lafave (soph.), Escanaba; Lexie Rowe (soph.), Calumet; Madi Swanson (jr.), L’Anse.
Class ABC second team: Samantha Beaulieu, Newberry; Kylee Erickson, West Iron County; Kylee Fitzpartrick, Sault Ste. Marie; Kristy Lasanen, Calumet; Kyra Lauzon, Manistique; Valerie Rajala (jr.), L’Anse; Andra Roell, Kingsford; Jessica Spencer (soph.), Ishpeming; Liana Storm, Marquette; Blaire Zenner, Houghton.
Class D first team: Casey Charlier, Carney-Nadeau; Sarah Cullip, St. Ignace; Jamie Dompier, Chassell; Sarah Madalinski, Bark River-Harris; Teslyn Tyner (jr.), Superior Central.
Class D second team: Nicole Bouwma, DeTour; Julia Daavettila (jr.), Dollar Bay; Emily Hinsman (jr.), St. Ignace; Miranda Jacobson (soph.), North Dickinson; Zoey McGeshick, Ewen-Trout Creek; Brooke Pasanen (jr.), Superior Central; Leah Jarvie, Rudyard; Olivia Smith, Pickford; Chelsea Truscott, Ontonagon; Morgan Wells (jr.), North Central.
Players of the year: ABC, Jurmu, Houghton; D, Gussert, Forest Park.
Coaches of the year: ABC, Ben Smith, Marquette; D, Dorene Ingalls, St. Ignace.
Teams of the year: AB, Marquette; C, Houghton; D, St. Ignace.
Dream team: Tyler Jandron (jr.), Negaunee; Mark Pap, Marquette; Brett Branstrom, Mid Peninsula; Dillon Gordon, Ewen-Trout Creek; Wade Schetter, Carney-Nadeau.
Class ABC first team: Alex Almquist (jr.), Hancock; A.J. Grazulis, Marquette; Caleb Harrington, Kingsford; Adam Mackey (jr.), Ironwood; Tanner Uren, Negaunee.
Class ABC second team: Ray’Shon Anderson, Sault Ste. Marie; Taylor Huotari, Iron Mountain; Ryan LaBerge (jr.), Houghton; Andy Nyquist (jr.), Marquette; Jacob Ostermeyer (jr.), L’Anse; Derek Reetz, Gwinn; Paul Torala, Calumet; Austin Waara, West Iron County; Aidan Wienke, Kingsford; Luke Zambon, Iron Mountain.
Class D first team: Josh Hester, Cedarville; Troy Kinnunen, Jeffers; Matt Verbrigghe, Superior Central; Travis Vincent (jr.), North Central; Gage Webster, Munising.
Class D second team: Mike Borseth, Ewen-Trout Creek; Joe Duncan (soph.), Cedarville; Rob Granquist (soph.), North Central; Keenan Lampinen (jr.), Carney-Nadeau; Eric Lane, Wakefield-Marenisco; Dan Lothrop, Brimley; Trevor Maki (jr.), Superior Central; Tyler Roose (soph.), Lake Linden-Hubbell; Taylor Smith, Bessemer; Curtis St. Louis, St. Ignace.
Players of the year: ABC, Jandron, Negaunee; D, Branstrom, Mid Peninsula.
Coaches of the year: ABC, Mike O’Donnell, Negaunee; D, Adam Mercier, North Central.
Teams of the year: AB, Marquette; C, Negaunee; D, North Central.