Strong Finish Sends Forest Park to Final

March 13, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

EAST LANSING – Lexi Gusset finally got to smile with about five seconds left in Friday’s last Class D Semifinal at the Breslin Center.

Her frustration melted, she yelled “Let’s go! One more game,” before being enveloped by a similarly relieved group of teammates. 

Crystal Falls Forest Park and this season’s Miss Basketball Award winner were eight minutes from an eight-hour drive two days earlier than expected as they trailed Athens with a quarter to play.

But the Trojans showed they are more than just the best player in the state. And that superstar poured it on when needed most to help her team finish a 49-33 comeback over the Indians. 

Gussert played the final 9 minutes and 31 seconds with four fouls – and despite Athens driving to draw the fifth – but managed to stay on the floor to score nine of her game-high 20 points during the fourth quarter.

 “Obviously being a leader, you don’t want to be sitting on the bench in the Semifinal game,” Gussert said. “But I knew I had be there for my team. That’s the most I’ve sat all year, so I was a little pumped up.” 

Top-ranked Forest Park (26-0) will face Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart (21-5) for the championship at 10 a.m. Saturday. Each is seeking its first MHSAA title.

The Trojans advanced to the 2012 Semifinals with Gussert a sophomore and fell to Athens that day 61-48 despite 34 points and 12 rebounds from the eventual Michigan State University recruit. 

Forest Park’s rotation has included nine or 10 players most of this season, and they had the experience of beaten Iron Mountain 74-39 midseason without Gussert, who missed because she was ill. Generally that depth has allowed the Trojans to wear opponents down. This time it allowed them to hang on – while also turning up the pressure enough to hold Athens scoreless during the fourth quarter.

“The girls are comfortable with it, and I’m glad we have that experience. We have the best player in the state on our team, but we have a whole lot of other good players (too),” Forest Park coach Jeff Syrjanen said. “I trust my team enough that I have faith in all of them. … I just didn’t think they would crack. We don’t change what we do; we just don’t do it as well without Lexi on the floor with us.” 

Sophomore guard Maria Stankewicz did the main filling in on the offensive end, finishing with 10 points and five assists. Senior center Kendra Campbell added eight points and freshman guard Abby Nylund had six points and seven rebounds.

Stankewicz also played the role of yeller at Gussert to not foul when Athens got out on a few fast breaks headed her way. 

“It was a lot different because I wasn’t used to it. But overall it wasn’t just me,” Stankewicz said. “I tried to take charge, tried to be a leader when she stepped off. But our posts played tougher and my other guard played tougher. We really were a team together.”

The Indians (22-4) did lead 33-32 heading into the final quarter. But in addition to not stopping Gussert’s final surge, they also struggled to find the hoop. The scoreless period included five turnovers and 11 missed shots.

This was Athens’ third straight trip to Breslin, and that no doubt helped the Indians stay calm when they trailed by 10 just more than six minutes into the game. But they couldn’t summon a final run.

“Sometimes during the season we had spells like that, and I think we started pressing it,” Athens coach Calvin Quist said. “When you start pressing it, it makes it more difficult for those shots to fall.

“We lost three senior starters from last year, and you don’t know what to expect,” he added. “Obviously we had high expectations. And these young ladies exceeded those expectations.”

Athens was ranked No. 5 entering the District tournament. Senior Audrey Oswalt finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and junior guard Allison Fuller added eight points.

She’s one of 10, including two starters, who will try to make it four straight trips to finish the season in East Lansing.

“I can’t dwell on this season. We had a great season, and I’m proud of my team, but we’ve got to get ready for next year as soon as possible,” Fuller said. “It comes up quick, and the more we prepare the better chance we’ll have to get here for the fourth time.”

Click for the full box score and video from the press conference.

PHOTOS: (Top) Forest Park's Maria Stankewicz (10) tries to dribble past Athens' Allison Fuller on Friday. (Middle) Athens' Allysha Beal pushes the ball upcourt with Forest Park's Samantha Nylund giving chase.

HIGHLIGHTS: (1) Audrey Oswalt of Athens completes the long pass off the Crystal Falls miss to Allison Fuller late in the first half of the Class D Semifinal. Fuller finished with eight points. (2) Alexis Gussert starts a 17-0 fourth quarter for Forest Park with a jump shot en route to a 20-point performance. The Trojans won 49-33.

Jahfetson Makes History from 3-Point Range in Taking Baraga to 2023 Finals

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

April 23, 2024

Baraga’s Corina Jahfetson graduated in 2023 as one of the most accomplished 3-point shooters in MHSAA history and coming off one of the most impressive single seasons from beyond the arc.

Her 103 3-pointers as a senior over 29 games were the second-most for one season and included eight in a Quarterfinal win over Mackinaw City – the second-most in an MHSAA Quarterfinal, Semifinal or Final.

She finished with 236 3-pointers over 96 games and four seasons, ranking 12th on that career list, and Baraga finished the season as Division 4 runner-up. She’s continuing her career at Northern Michigan.

See below for more recent additions to the MHSAA girls basketball record book, and click the heading to view the record book in full.

Girls Basketball

Alma junior Bailey Walkington earned her school’s first single-season individual record book entry for girls basketball in 2022-23. She made the steals list with 143 over 23 games.

Dalton DeBoer became the latest Midland Dow long-range shooting ace to make the records after she drained 70 of 206 3-point attempts over 24 games in 2022-23. DeBoer is a junior this school year.

Durand senior Jordyn Lawrence earned her school’s first girls basketball individual record book entry with 15 steals in her team’s 44-31 win over Flint Kearsley on Dec. 2, 2022. She’s continuing at Mid-Michigan College.

Leah French finished her Engadine career in 2023 with a series of game, season and career record book entries detailing her scoring and defensive skills. She earned single-game listings for 54 points and 19 free throws against St. Ignace on Feb. 6, 2023, and nine 3-pointers against Manistique that Jan. 9. She made the single-season list with 81 3-pointers, 177 free throws and 168 steals over 25 games as a senior. And she made the career lists with 171 3-pointers, 354 free throws and 405 steals over 85 games and four seasons. She’s continuing her career at Aquinas College.

Arieonna Ware earned Battle Creek Central's first girls basketball record book entry with 51 points in a Feb. 11, 2020, win over Portage Northern. She actually finished with a triple-double, adding 12 rebounds and 12 steals. Ware also was added for 47 points in a March 6, 2019, District game against Sturgis.

Mesick senior Kayla McCoy made the MHSAA record in 2022-23 as a junior, totaling 144 steals over 23 games. It was Mesick’s first individual entry in the girls basketball record book.

Coldwater’s Carlee Crabtree made a career-high 52 3-pointers during her senior season of 2019-20 on the way to making the MHSAA career list for long-distance shots with 163, in 469 attempts, over four seasons and 88 games total. She went on to play at Central Michigan and Hope College.

Battle Creek Pennfield’s Kaylee Glidden capped her three-year varsity career in 2023 among the most accurate free-throw shooters in MHSAA history – and also among top 3-point aces. She made 90.6 percent of her free-throw attempts as a senior, good for fifth-highest percentage all-time for one season, and her 84.4-percent success rate ranks fourth on the career list. She also made the single-season 3-pointers list with 67 that winter and the career list with 168. She continued at Kellogg Community College and has committed to Great Lakes Christian College.

Larissa Huffman made a pair of career lists upon completing her four-year varsity career in 2023 at Mackinaw City. She was added for 468 assists and 411 steals, both over 92 games, and she’s continuing her career at St. Norbert (Wis.). Additionally, Mackinaw City was added to the single-game field goals list as a team for making at least 39 in a game six times over the 2021-22 and 2022-23 seasons, with a high of 45.

Lansing Christian earned a listing on the team 3-pointers list when it sank 14 on 32 attempts against Webberville on Jan. 20, 2023. Seven players drained at least one of the long-distance shots.  

Grayling’s 66-49 win over Houghton Lake on Dec. 19 included one of the most impressive defensive performances of all-time as senior Makayla Watkins had 19 steals – tying for third-most in one game.

Brooklyn Columbia Central’s Zoandria Bamm grabbed 28 rebounds during a Feb. 14, 2023, game against Clinton to make the single-game list in that category and on the way to finishing her senior season with 380 rebounds over 25 games – tying for 13th most on that list. She’s playing at Jackson College.

Riley Abney became the first player to be listed for points scored in a quarter of a girls basketball game when she sank 21 of her 36 total during the fourth quarter of a 64-47 loss to Linden on Jan. 16. The Ortonville Brandon senior has committed to be a preferred walk-on at Oakland.

A pair of Paw Paw standouts earned single-game accomplishments within three days of each other in January. On Jan. 26 against Sturgis, junior AJ Rickli grabbed 31 rebounds, tied for seventh-most for one game. On Jan. 29 against Three Rivers, sophomore Stella Shaefer made the single-game assists list with 14.

Keira Maki joined the single-game points list on Feb. 22 when she scored 47 in Escanaba’s 64-49 win over Sault Ste. Marie. The senior will continue at Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

PHOTO Baraga’s Corina Jahfetson (22) brings the ball upcourt during the 2023 Division 4 Final against Glen Lake at Breslin Center.