By PAT KRAUSE
For The Daily News
WAKEFIELD - Forest Park took some more championship hardware back to their school trophy case after the Trojans dunked Wakefield- Marenisco 66-23 in the MHSAA Class D District 127 Tournament final in the Cardinal Gym on Friday.
Pat Krause/The Daily Globe Photo
Forest Park’s Lexi Gussert shoots during Friday’s Class D District 127 final.
"We're playing at an up-level right now," Coach Jeff Syrjanen said. "You're either going up or down and if you're going down, you go home. We've been on an upswing for nine years and we've won the district four years in a row.
"We really want to make a run in the tournament and this was a big first step. But there are a lot of good teams in this region."
Forest Park (22-0) and Dollar Bay, a 43-34 winner over Chassell, will meet Tuesday in the regional at Kingsford.
It didn't take Lexi Gussert long to get the show on the road for Forest Park. Gussert, who is the favorite to become Miss Michigan in basketball this year, hauled down a rebound, took a few dribbles and threw a long pass that hit Sam Nylund in stride for a score.
Gussert produced a triple-double with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
Forest Park's offense began to roll and its man-to-man defense was suffocating. When Kendra Campbell made an old-fashioned three with a 10-foot shot off the glass and a free throw, the Trojans went up 13-0 with 2:59 left in the quarter.
"We've improved throughout this year," Syrjanen said. "Our style is the same. We're up-tempo with pressure defense and scoring transition points. We put pressure on early and we have enough depth to rotate kids in to wear teams down."
Forest Park built its lead to 20-0 before Miranda Sibley, a four-year starter playing in her final game, finally broke the ice with a score with 1:39 remaining.
Cardinal coach Pete Yon said his young team may have been getting beat, but they didn't have the deer in the headlights look some teams do when they take on Forest Park.
"We beat two teams in the district tournament and we were in position to play for the district championship, so that's a positive," Yon said. "We didn't play our best basketball, but we were playing possibly the No.1 team in the state and the No.1 player in the state. It definitely helps you to play better competition."
Gussert seemed more content in setting up her teammates for scores than shooting herself, but she racked up 14-points by halftime and the Trojans had a 41-8 advantage.
"Lexi improves every day and never stops working," Syrjanen said. "It's infectious on any team. Her passing has always been very good and she seems stronger physically. I think the big difference is she seems faster."
In the third quarter, Forest Park got good shots with sharp passes all over the court and turned a lot of Cardinal turnovers into points. W-M found out that Lexi Gussert has a good supporting cast, too.
The running clock was played for about three minutes of the third quarter and all of the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals finished the season with a 10-12 record, but came on strong later in the year going 9-5.
(Pat Krause is with The Daily Globe of Ironwood)
Forest Park 22 19 13 12 - 66
W-M 2 6 6 9 - 23
FOREST PARK: Maria Stankewicz 8, Abby Nylund 4, Jessica Bawyn 6, Kendra Campbell 3, Kelsi Hendrickson 2, Sierra Robarge 9, Lexi Gussert 25, Mary Grandahl 1, Sam Nylund 4, Susie Toivonen 4. FTs: 5-12. Fouls: 5. Fouled out: none. 3-pointers: Gussert 3, Robarge 1.
W-M: Miranda Sibley 2, Darienne Korpi 4, Lauren Grace 2, Elizabeth Makela 2, Hallee Yon 3, Heather Hemming 4, Kassidee Yon 3, Rachel Obradovich 3. FTs: 1-3. Fouls: 5. Fouled out:none. 3-pointers: Kassidee Yon 1, Hallee Yon 1.