CRYSTAL FALLS—Welcome to the machine! Forest Park’s girls basketball juggernaut mowed down two more opponents last week, running the superteam’s record to 11-0 (8-0 in the Skyline Conference).
At North Dickinson on Jan. 14, the Lady Trojans crushed the Nordics 34-4 in the first quarter on their way to a 85-27 win. Back home vs. North Central Jan. 17, it was a 29-1 first quarter and a 73-27 win.
Combined, that’s 63-5 in the first quarter and 158-54 overall.
At North Dickinson, Lexi Gussert polished her Miss Michigan credentials with 18 points in the first quarter, 42 for the night and 10 3-pointers, breaking the Forest Park school record of nine set by her brother, Drew Gussert.
“Even though she broke her brother’s record,” Coach Jeff Syrjanen said, “she said she had to give a lot of credit to Andrew because he was in the gym with her Sunday, helping her with her shot.
“She thanked him by breaking his record.”
Forest Park clamped its press on the Nordics right from the start. “They did not handle it well,” Syrjanen said. At the other end, Gussert fired four treys, Abby Nylund had another and 2-pointers by Kendra Campbell and Maria Stankewicz added to the lead. “It got out of hand really quick.”
All the Trojan reserves had seen game action by halftime. The starters came back in the third for a while, playing a plain vanilla defense with no press. It was a 35-16 second half anyway.
Beyond Lexi’s scoring, Sierra Robarge scored nine and Stankewicz and Jessica Bawyn scored eight. Stankewicz had four assists and four steals, and Robarge had three more steals. Campbell added three blocks.
One more stat: FP had 76 shots from the floor to ND’s 40. Lexi Steele’s six points led the Nordics.
Trojans 34 16 19 16 -- 85
Nordics 4 7 5 11 -- 27
OK, let’s say you are coaching a team that faces a squad like Forest Park. What do you do? What can you do?
At North Central, the coach tried a box-and-one defense focusing on Lexi, in hopes of limiting her damage. Rotsa ruck!
“A lot of teams think we’re a one-dimensional team,” Syrjanen said, “and they quickly find out we’re not.”
Here’s what happened. Campbell for three off the opening jump. Robarge hit a two, then back-to-back threes, then another two—10 straight points. Stankewicz hit two more buckets. “I think we had 19 points—close to that—before Lexi scored.”
After one, the Trojans led 29-1. There’s your ballgame. FP took off its press after the first quarter, and Syrjanen rotated all his girls in and out. It was 48-15 at the break, and the running clock went to work again in the second half.
Syrjanen said FP’s entire starting five played very well. Robarge scored 12, Stankewicz had eight, Campbell had seven and Bawyn and Sam Nylund scored six each. FP shot 48% from the floor.
And Lexi? She was “held” to 24 points, along with 15 rebounds and 11 assists—a triple double, plus three steals.
“Our defense was outstanding for most of the game. It’s one of the areas we’re trying to get better at.”
Morgan Wells’ 12 points led North Central.
Jets 1 14 8 4 -- 27
Trojans 29 19 15 10 -- 73
• The Trojans visited Iron Mountain Jan. 20 and are back home against Rapid River Jan. 23. (Lexi scored 50 at the Rockers’ gym last season.) The bus heads to Carney-Nadeau on Jan. 27.