CRYSTAL FALLS—Forest Park’s girls team opened its new season last week, visiting two teams that Coach Jeff Syrjanen had expressed some concern about beforehand.
Oh yeah? The Lady Trojans had no problems whatsoever, crunching North Central 56-32 on Dec. 3 and Bark River-Harris 70-38 on Dec. 6. Forest Park is 2-0 overall, 2-0 Skyline.
For the record, that game at North Central was 12 days after the Lady Trojans’ volleyball state semifinal match at Battle Creek. But if the Jets were thinking they had FP right where they wanted them, the first eight minutes proved otherwise.
Crunch! The Lady Trojans outscored North Central 23-11, with Lexi Gussert scoring 15 of them. The Jets found themselves staring at a 23-2 deficit before scoring nine straight points to end the quarter.
They also stared at a new press the Lady Trojans have been working on this year. “It’s really been effective in both games.”
FP fell off its blistering early pace (“We’re not conditioned yet.”) and rotated a lot of players in for the rest of the half.
Early in the third quarter, the Lady Trojans increased the lead to 20, and Samantha Nylund connected on back-to-back three-pointers in the fourth quarter. “Huge shots. She just played a good all-around game for us.”
Syrjanen called FP’s defense “excellent for our first game. We switched defenses continually and asked the kids to do a lot of different things. They’re a veteran, smart team; they’re able to work well in transition.”
Lexi led with 28 points, Nylund hit for 12, Kendra Campbell had eight and Jessica Bawyn scored six.
Lexi Gussert, 28 pts, 3x3, 8 rebs, 4 asts, 8 stls; Samantha Nylund, 12 pts, 2x3, 7 rebs, 2 stls; Jessica Bawyn, 6 pts; Kendra Campbell, 8 rebs, 5 stls; Maria Stankewicz, 4 pts, 2 stls; Sierra Robarge, 3 rebs, 2 asts.
Trojans 23 7 14 12 -- 56
Jets 11 6 10 5 -- 32
At Bark River, the Lady Trojans came out guns blazing again, jumping away to a big lead. “We got help from a lot of people,” Syrjanen said. “Everybody seemed to be clicking, and our press was very effective.
“It’s no secret—we want to press and run this year, and we want to rotate players deeply. That’s what we did.” Six different players scored in the first quarter—Gussert scored 14 points, with a pair of threes, and Campbell complemented her with three early baskets.
FP led 11-3 and then went on a tear, scoring the next 32 points, including back-to-back threes by Kelsi Hendrickson. The Broncos focused their defense on Gussert—who simply passed to unguarded teammates. “When the other players are hitting, like Kelsi and Kendra the other night,” the coach noted, “we’re pretty difficult to defend.”
Bark River didn’t score again until seconds before halftime. At the break: 45-14. All 14 Lady Trojans got plenty of playing time in the second half.
“We used the transition defense, where we’re changing it up all the time. It keeps a team off-balance—they’re not sure if we’re in zone or man. We do that on the fly.
“It’s a fun defense for us, and the kids are buying into playing good defense. That’s something they want to do and get better at.”
Despite all the defense she saw, Gussert finished with a triple double: 32 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists. A good night’s work. Campbell had nine and Stankewicz eight.
Gussert, 32 pts, 4x3, 13 rebs, 10 asts, 5 stls; Campbell, 9 pts; Stankewicz, 8 pts, 5 rebs; Kelsi Hendrickson, 6 pts, 2x3; Nylund, 4 pts, 5 rebs; Adel Isaacson, 4 rebs; Abby Nylund, 3 asts.
Trojans 26 19 9 16 -- 70
Broncos 11 3 9 15 -- 38
• Welcome home! The Lady Trojans open their home schedule Dec. 10 against Carney-Nadeau. It’s the first of three straight at home: They face Class B nonconference foe Kingsford Dec. 13 and Mid Peninsula on Dec. 17.