CRYSTAL FALLS—You can think of this as Forest Park’s girls’ regular season—but in another sense, their real season doesn’t start for two more weeks.
So let’s say it this way: Forest Park’s pre-post-season record went to 16-0 last week with two more lopsided nonconference wins at home: 82-45 over Baraga on Feb. 3 and 71-24 over West Iron County on Feb. 6.
The Lady Trojans continue to fine-tune their game as they prepare for the Class D tournament, which begins with the district tourney in Wakefield-Marenisco in late February.
Against Baraga, FP broke away to a 50-16 halftime lead and was ahead 70-21 after three. The Vikettes scored over half of their points in the fourth quarter, despite the running clock.
Like other teams, Baraga tried a box-and-one defense on Lexi Gussert—so Sierra Robarge did some heavy damage, scoring eight points in the first eight minutes. The box didn’t slow Lexi, either: She had 22 points by halftime, on her way to 29.
Before the first quarter was over, the box had been emptied, and Forest Park took off its press.
Kelsi Hendrickson filled in at point guard for Maria Stankewicz, out with an injured wrist, and sank a pair of threes. “She did a really nice job running it,” Coach Jeff Syrjanen said.
“We were just too deep and defended them too well in the first half. We got the big lead, and the game quickly got away.”
Eleven different Lady Trojans scored. Following Gussert’s 29, Robarge had 10, Kendra Campbell and Kaitlyn Bradley scored seven each and Jessica Bawyn and Hendrickson both had six.
Vikings 9 7 5 24 -- 45
Trojans 23 27 20 12 -- 82
West Iron tried a different strategy against Forest Park: running with them, trying for an up-tempo game.
Syrjanen said it worked somewhat for a while—until Sam Nylund struck with a pair of 3-pointers, part of an 8-0 Trojan burst that put FP ahead 16-4. “I’m sure they weren’t expecting to see that,” said the coach.
This time, FP put Gussert inside and Nylund on the perimeter. “That’s something we’ve been working on in practice.” Gussert scored 22 in the first half, as the Lady Trojans led 40-18 at the break.
“What happens is, we’re so much deeper than they are,” Syrjanen said. “By the time we hit the second half, our defense was so intense on them that I think they tired and just couldn’t go at the pace we were going at.”
To the Wykons’ credit, “They played very, very hard and never quit. That was good for us, to get a challenge like that—not like some of the other teams that just quit on you. West Iron kept fighting the whole game.
“They have gotten better,” the coach added. “But we have also.”
Gussert finished with 32 points (plus 16 rebounds, four steals and two assists). Sam Nylund and Abby Nylund both scored nine, and Campbell added seven. Ten different FP girls scored. Both Lexi and Sam made three 3-pointers.
Freshman Abby Nylund (Sam’s cousin) shot 4 for 4 plus three assists and four steals. Stankewicz returned to action and had three assists and two steals.
Wykons 9 9 4 2 -- 24
Trojans 20 20 18 13 -- 71
• The Lady Trojans visit Rapid River on Feb. 11 and are back home to face North Dickinson Feb. 13. Two wins would wrap up a perfect Skyline season.
Early next week, a significant moment: Lexi Gussert plays her final game in the Eddie Chambers Gym. It takes place on senior recognition night, Feb. 18, when the Lady Trojans host Florence. The regular season ends one night later, Feb. 19, when FP has a make-up game at Carney-Nadeau.