All-U.P. Girls Basketball: Forest Park’s Gussert, St. Ignace’s Wright named Players of the Year

MARQUETTE – Michigan’s Miss Basketball was an easy pick as Class D Player of the Year for the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association at its annual basketball meeting on Wednesday in Marquette.

The Class ABC race presented more of a choice, however.

While Michigan State University-bound Lexi Gussert of Forest Park earned the D honor by acclimation, three candidates from the top three Class ABC schools emerged for that corresponding honor.

Senior Kelley Wright of St. Ignace won the vote with 16 members picking her. Marquette’s Hunter Viitala earned seven votes and Houghton senior Elisa Jurmu received one.

Class C St. Ignace also ended the season as the No. 1 team in Class ABC as voted by a select group from the UPSSA, while Class B Houghton was second and Class A Marquette third.

Viitala, an Associated Press Class A honorable mention pick, was both the sharpshooter and defensive anchor of a balanced Redettes team. Her shooting averages – 39 percent of 3-pointers and 78 percent of free throws – earned her a berth into the Shooting Skills competition held during the MHSAA state finals in East Lansing a week ago.

But in addition to being named Great Northern Conference Player of the Year for the second straight season, the 5-foot-8 junior also made the league’s All Defensive Team, averaging 5.2 steals and five rebounds per game.

“She plays at the top of our perimeter-trapping defense,” said her coach, Ben Smith. “Whether she gets a deflection, or forces bad decisions, she gets the other team to do things they don’t want to do.”

The Redettes opened the season 16-0 with a win over St. Ignace and Class A foes Sault Ste. Marie, Brighton, Traverse City Central and TC West, finishing the year at 19-3.

At 5-10, Wright averaged 16 points, eight rebounds, 6.5 steals and four assists per game for the 24-3 Saints, who blew through its early postseason games before falling in the Class C state championship game to Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central.

Wright finished her high school career by scoring 1,542 points and making 560 steals, listed as second all-time in the state. In addition, her 102 wins over four varsity seasons is the most for any player, boy or girl, ever in Michigan.

An AP Class C all-state selection and Player of the Year in the Straits Area Conference, she plans to attend and play basketball at NCAA Division I Youngstown State in Ohio.

Jurmu, a 5-9 senior, averaged 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.7 steals or two assists while shooting 49 percent from the field and 82 percent on free throws for the 19-3 Gremlins.

An AP Class B all-state first-teamer, she led Houghton to a share of the West PAC title, its 14th straight. Jurmu finished with 1,045 career points in 57 games.

Gussert, however, shone most brightly not only in the U.P., but over the entire state. The 6-1 senior led the Crystal Falls team to a perfect 20-0 regular season and a berth in the Class D championship game by setting the all-time U.P. scoring record for any boy or girl, finishing her career with 2,630 points.

She averaged 29.4 points per game as a senior, along with 12 rebounds, 7.4 assists and four steals while breaking the state’s 3-point field goal record with 105 as a senior.