Upset-minded Wolverines fade down the stretch
PERKINS – The Mid Peninsula girls had upset on their minds Wednesday night, but the top-ranked Forest Park Trojans decided they didn’t want to be any part of that.
Forest Park, picking up the pace in the second half of this Skyline Conference basketball contest, rolled to a 63-33 triumph.
The Wolverines led 25-23 at halftime, but were outscored 40-8 after the intermission.
“Mid Pen was trying to control the tempo and they did a nice job,” said Forest Park coach Jeff Syrjanen. “Also, the shots weren’t falling for us in the first half. We didn’t change anything. We just asked the girls to pick up the tempo in the second half.”
Forest Park senior forward Kendra Campbell tied the score at 25 with a set shot from the lane, set up on a pass from senior center Lexi Gussert 59 seconds into the third quarter.
Sophomore guard Maria Stankewicz sank a jumper from the left corner to put the Trojans ahead to stay (28-25) less than a minute later and Campbell added a layup for a 30-25 cushion with 5:49 left in the period.
“Maria’s three against their box-in-one (defense) was huge,” said Syrjanen. “Our kids respond to adversity. They know how to fight back.”
Mid Pen (4-5 overall, 3-4 Skyline) was still within 37-30 with 2:57 left in the third when freshman forward Sarah Hanson drained a free throw.
But Forest Park, with Michigan State recruit Gussert leading the charge, closed the third stanza with a 9-0 run for a 46-30 advantage.
“The first half is probably the best I’ve seen our girls play,” said Mid Pen coach Bobby Reichel. “Even in the second half, I don’t think the score shows how well we played. That just showed how good they are. I think the first half is something we need to build on.”
Gussert finished with a triple-double, scoring 24 points to go with 14 rebounds and 11 assists. She converted 10-of-29 field goals. Although Gussert missed several layups, she was a leader in Forest Park’s full-court press and half-court trapping defense.
“Lexi had a tough night shooting, but did many of the little things great players do,” said Syrjanen. “She did a nice job leading our fast break.”
Mid Pen junior forward Hunter Branstrom scored 11 of her 19 points in the second frame. Her reverse layup midway through the period gave the Wolverines a 19-13 lead.
“Hunter played real well,” said Reichel. “This is probably the best I’ve seen her play. The biggest thing is we were able to control the tempo. That’s why we had the lead at halftime. I think our girls got a little tired in the second half. We just don’t have the depth they have.”
The Wolverines extended their lead to 22-15 with 3:15 left in the second when senior forward Kelsey Shope swished a running eight-foot jumper and free throw.
Forest Park then rallied to tie the score at 23 on an eight-foot set shot by senior Sam Nylund, set up on a pass by Gussert 1:47 before haftime.
Hanson then drained an eight-foot set shot 20 seconds before the intermission, giving the Wolverines their 25-23 halftime lead.
Campbell, who picked up her third foul early in the second quarter, finished with 12 points and Stankewicz had 10.
Forest Park finished with a 35-26 rebounding advantage, hit 28-of-73 field goals and committed 12 turnovers, including just one in the third stanza.
“Rebounding was one of the big things we needed to pick up,” said Syrjanen. “They outrebounded us in the first half. We came out a little flat after the long bus ride.”
The Wolverines were 12-of-45 from the floor and had 25 miscues, including eight in the third frame.
“Turnovers made a difference, especially in the third quarter,” said Reichel. “I thought we did a pretty good job on defense. We’re pleased to hold Lexi to 24 points. Sarah (Hanson) put a lot of pressure on her.”
Forest Park, which also won the jayvee game 55-24, hosts Bark River-Harris Friday. Mid Pen hosts North Dickinson Friday.