Girls basketball: Trojans win 8th straight district championship

Forest Park hoists the Class D district championship trophy for an eighth straight year Friday. (Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo)

CRYSTAL FALLS — Forest Park’s girls earned an eighth consecutive district championship Friday.

Mercedes Simmons’ 28 points and 15 rebounds powered the Lady Trojans past Wakefield-Marenisco 54-35 to capture the Class D District 127 trophy at Eddie Chambers Gymnasium.

“It’s been a long week and we’ve been pushing hard, and here we are, district champions,” said FP coach Jackie Giuliani. “It’s been a good night.”

Simmons, a sophomore center who registered 24 points and 20 rebounds in the district semifinal win over Ewen-Trout Creek, triggered Forest Park to a 9-0 start over WM.

“It’s hard to match up with Crystal Falls,” said WM coach Bruce Mahler. “That Simmons is just too big. My biggest girl is maybe 5-8. I thought they did a pretty good job of denying the ball but she gets a lot of second-chance shots. We really had no answer to the size is what it came down to.”

The contest was settled early with Forest Park leading 18-3 after the first quarter. Despite the cushion, Giuliani said it was “nerve-wracking.”

Forest Park (13-9) collected 20 turnovers in the game and WM (9-13) had 25.

“We couldn’t get into the flow of the game,” Giuliani said. “We just weren’t taking care of the ball well. Once we started moving the ball and we were patient on offense, we found the open girl.”

Taylor Honkala added 10 points, five steals and four assists for the Trojans. Hannah Cross had nine points with four assists.

“Our diamond defense press really created some things for us,” said Giuliani, noting lay-ups for baskets.

The Cardinals, more aggressive than ETC in challenging Simmons, trailed 29-15 at halftime and 39-17 five minutes into the third quarter.

Saundra Libertoski led WM with 15 points, six rebounds and five steals. Alexa Jilek chipped in eight points and eight rebounds.

“That Libertoski is a nice player,” Giuliani said. “She found a way to the basket and we didn’t move our feet very well against her. We were just a step slow it felt like tonight.”

Mahler cited the effort of seniors Libertoski, Jilek and Melissa Wanink.

“I thought we played OK,” said Mahler, who was recently appointed baseball coach at Gogebic Community College. “Our three seniors don’t want to lose. They weren’t going to give up. They played hard. We had a lot of unforced errors but give them credit for playing well.”

The Cardinals shot 27 percent from the floor.

Forest Park and Skyline Central Conference foe Bark River-Harris will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday in the regional opener at Kingsford. The Broncos, who beat North Central 46-34 for the District 126 title Friday, split with the Trojans during the regional.

The other regional semifinal Tuesday in Kingsford pits Munising and Chassell.

Wakefield-Marenisco 3 12 7 13 — 35

Forest Park 18 11 13 12 — 54

WAKEFIELD-MARENISCO (35): Libertoski 15, Jilek 8, C. Yon 4, Hauntala 5, Londo 2, Wanink 1. FT: 9-22. F: 16. 3PT: Libertoski, Jilek. FG: 12-43 (27 percent). Rebounds: 26 (Jilek 8, Libertoski 6)

FOREST PARK (54): Simmons 28, Honkala 10, Cross 9, Scarlassara 2, Soderberg 2, Honkala 2, Emmers 1. FT: 10-22. F: 16. 3PT: Honkala, Cross. FG: 21-53. Rebounds: 34 (Simmons 15).