A Bark River opponent has the path to the basket blocked, but Forest Park’s Sam Nylund spots an open teammate during action from last month.
CRYSTAL FALLS—Forest Park’s girls breezed past what could be the greatest remaining threat to a perfect regular season Jan. 30 when the Lady Trojans overcame the loss of a starter to defeat Kingsford 70-47.
“It was a testing game for us, which is good,” Coach Jeff Syrjanen said later. Because the Flivvers were able to stay close, “We were able to play our kids for a longer period of time—we had to call time-out a couple of times so they could catch their breath.”
Earlier last week, the Jan. 27 game at Carney-Nadeau was postponed due to subzero weather and moved to Feb. 19, making it the final game of the regular season.
The Kingsford win makes Forest Park’s record 14-0 overall, 9-0 in Skyline Conference play.
The bad news came in the third quarter when sophomore point guard Maria Stankewicz fell awkwardly while fighting for a rebound and injured a wrist. X-rays were negative, and Syrjanen said he hopes Stankewicz can return “in a week or two.”
Kingsford, said the coach, gave the Lady Trojans’ one of their tougher tests of the season. FP took a 10-12 point lead in the first half, but never could break away.
“They [the Flivvers] did a good job of getting back on our break,” he said. “We pressured them the whole game, and they didn’t turn the ball over a lot—they seem to have improved a lot” since FP’s 71-41 win back on Dec. 13.
With a big crowd in the stands and a pep band livening things up, “It was kind of a tournament atmosphere,” Syrjanen said. “I think we were a little overjuiced to start the game off.” Forest Park could have been caught up in the atmosphere and rushed shots in the first half—not their normal style.
It suited Sierra Robarge, though. Robarge sizzled in the second quarter, scoring 12 points, including a pair of threes.
FP’s biggest problem was “losing” Courtney Qualley, who scored 16 points for Kingsford before halftime. “We lost her a couple times in our transition defense, mostly on threes.”
Things got straightened during the break: The players realized they need to slow down a bit on offense, work out a different plan for Qualley and pick up their intensity on defense.
Another change: Lexi Gussert played at a guard position in the first half. She was switched to low post in the second half. “Our team, with their good passing, was able to find her open.”
It all worked. The offense started clicking like normal, and the defense picked up, limiting Qualley to a single basket in the second half. Meanwhile, Gussert scored 19 in the first half and 21 in the second—another 40-point game.
Things didn’t slow, even after Stankewicz left the game. Kelsi Hendrickson took over running the point for Forest Park “and really stepped it up big-time,” said her coach.
“It shows our depth and our strength when we can lose a point guard as talented as Maria and nor really miss a beat.”
Gussert hit six 3-pointers and added six assists and three blocks. Besides Gussert’s 40, Robarge finished with 12, while Kendra Campbell had seven points and five steals.
Forest Park shot 47% from the floor and was 1 of 2 at the free throw line. Not many free throw attempts (7 of 10 combined) but plenty of 3-point attempts (16 of 44 combined; FP made nine, Kingsford hit seven).
The big noisy crowd was welcome, Syrjanen added. Remember: Kingsford hosts the Class D regional tourney in early March.
Trojans 16 19 13 22 -- 70
Flivvers 7 16 13 11 -- 47
• This week, the Lady Trojans are home, hosting Baraga on Feb. 3 and West Iron on Feb. 6. They head to Rapid River on Feb. 11.