Girls basketball: Trojans sink Panthers in district semifinals
CRYSTAL FALLS — Mercedes Simmons and a stifling defense sent Forest Park past Ewen-Trout Creek 38-25 in a Class D District 127 semifinal Wednesday.
Simmons, a sophomore center playing her 12th varsity game, collected 24 points and 20 rebounds to lead the Lady Trojans (12-9) into the finals. She also added four blocks, two steals and two assists.
“Phenomenal game for a sophomore,” said Forest Park coach Jackie Giuliani. “We’ve become a different team with her on the floor. She’s hard to defend.”
Forest Park’s man defense didn’t give E-TC (16-5) an inch. The Panthers shot just 20 percent from the floor, hitting eight of 39 field goals.
“Our defense wasn’t too horrible,” said E-TC coach Jacky Besonen. “But it was really difficult for us to score. We couldn’t find a way to score.”
Besonen said it was “grueling and tiring” dealing with Simmons and Forest Park’s defense.
“They had good pressure and were physical,” Besonen said. “When we did get in the lane they had good help and, of course, they have their big girl underneath that makes it really difficult to shoot.
“If you do get it in the lane she’s getting a block. That’s what really squashed us tonight.”
Defense has been a priority of Forest Park’s practice sessions.
“We have been focusing on defense all season long and especially the last two weeks of the season,” Giuliani said. “We’ve been focusing on keeping them out of the lane and not letting them in.”
Giuliani said the team mantra has been “nothing easy and pressure in their face.
“That’s what I saw out their tonight and I am so proud of them,” said Giuliani, noting senior guard Emme Emmers leads the way on top with Hannah Cross, Simmons and a solid supporting cast below. “I was super proud of the defense.”
E-TC also took many one-and-done shots. The Trojans pulled down 36 rebounds to 17 for the Panthers.
“We got one chance pretty much every time, and then it was back to their ball,” Besonen said, “They did a great job of boxing out and making sure we didn’t get another chance.”
FP’s Taylor Honkala had two triples for six points along with five steals and five assists.
“They do a good job on offense of just taking their time and being patient working the ball around until they get a good shot,” Besonen said.
E-TC held an 8-6 lead after the first quarter but FP rolled 13-2 in the second quarter for a 19-10 halftime edge. The Panthers managed 15 points the rest of the way.
The Trojans will host Wakefield-Marenisco on Friday for the district title.
“If we play defense like we did tonight, we should have a good chance,” Giuliani said.
Ewen-Trout Creek 8 2 7 8 — 25
Forest Park 6 13 11 8 — 38
EWEN-TROUT CREEK (25): Witt 1, LeGault 7, Besonen 7, Cronkright 8, Moilanen 2. FT: 8-12. F: 4. 3PT: Besonen. FG: 8-39. Rebounds: 17 (LeGault 6).
FOREST PARK (38): Simmons 24, Emmers 2, Honkala 6, Loehr 2, Nocerini 2, Cross 2. FT: 0-0. F: 12. 3PT: Honkala 2. FG: 18-45. Rebounds: 36 (Simmons 20).