Lexi Gussert of Crystal Falls Forest Park on Tuesday became the 33rd recipient of the Miss Basketball award, given annually to the state’s top senior by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, in conjunction with the Detroit Free Press.
Only BCAM members are permitted to vote for the award, and they did so for Gussert in overwhelming fashion.
Gussert, who has signed to play at Michigan State, totaled 1,938 points, well ahead of runner-up Jessica Walter of Midland, who had 1,180 points, and Three Rivers’ Teagan Reeves, who was third, with 791 points. Votes were tabulated on a 5-3-1 basis.
Coaches are required to vote for three candidates, and Gussert had 319 first-place votes, more than three times as many as Walter (105).
In electing Gussert (6 feet), the coaches voted for a scorer deluxe, who has 2,593 points, fourth-most in state history. This season, she is averaging 29.4 points per game. In Tuesday’s quarterfinal victory over Posen, she hit two 3-point shots to set the state record with 101 3-pointers this season.
Crystal Falls coach Jeff Syrjanen said he knew years before Gussert entered high school that he eventually would be coaching a terrific player.
“Seeing her in junior high, she was just way better than everybody else way early,” he said. “You could see the fear in all the opponent’s eyes when she was in junior high. People would get upset because she was so much better than everybody else. I think everybody thought she was older because she was so good.”
She was so good, she said, because she grew up in the Crystal Falls gym while her father, Scott, served as the boys varsity coach.
“As he was coaching, I would be the little pesty kid, running in the gym and him yelling, ‘Get off the floor!’ ” she recalled. “But it never stopped me. They told me I was dribbling at 2.”
A few weeks ago, Syrjanen was worried about what he would do on Senior Night. He wanted to start all of the seniors, but Crystal Falls has six seniors on the team.
He approached co-captain Sam Nylund about the predicament, and Nylund said: “Lexi and I already talked about it, and Lexi said she’s not starting. You can talk to her.”
There was nothing to talk about. Gussert had started every game of her career except for the game she missed this season, when she had the flu.
“I really wanted to do this,” she said. “I would hear the team talking about who would sit. I didn’t want them to feel down because one of them had to sit. Since I have been starting for a while now, it wouldn’t hurt me to sit.”
Gussert’s earliest memory of the Miss Basketball award came in 2010, when she was in the eighth grade, and East Lansing’s Klarissa Bell won.
“I saw them play, I thought: ‘Oh, that’s Miss Basketball.’ It thought it was a really cool thing,” she said. “I guess it’s something you could always dream about it. Thinking about it back then, I thought, ‘No way.’ I was pushing myself to hopefully do that. I know it’s not very common in the U.P.
“It’s awesome; it’s an awesome feeling.”