Forest Grove girls are hampered by defensive miscues in a loss to No. 6 West Linn

Forest Grove girls basketball coach Po Waiwaiole is hoping that a week of practice with no game interruptions will get his squad back on track.

The Lady Vikings (1-2) have lost two of their first three games but have a chance to rebound this week with dates against Westview (3-1) and Milwaukie (1-3).

'We'll find out where we are this week,' said Waiwaiole. 'I definitely think we're moving in the right direction.'

Of course, not all of the Lady Viks' problems are related to their play on the court. Forest Grove did itself no favors with a tough early-season schedule that included No. 2 Oregon City (at the Aloha Tip-Off Tournament) and No. 6 West Linn. Not coincidentally, those two games represent the Lady Viks' two losses.

'We're not trying to pad our record or make ourselves feel good,' said Waiwaiole. 'We hoped to play some good teams this year and so far we have.

'We've got an older group of players and they've been through a lot. They know what they're capable of doing and what they need to do to get there. The girls aren't going to hold their heads down just because we lost a couple games.'

Still, Waiwaiole and his coaching staff feel there is room for improvement, especially defensively. The team's lack of help defense last Tuesday allowed West Linn guard Rosetta Adzasu to torch the Vikings for 19 points and eight assists in a 63-50 victory.

'There's no reason at all for somebody to go from the top of the key all the way down to the basket,' Waiwaiole said after the game of Adzasu's slicing drives. 'It's one thing if she beats somebody off the dribble, but we knew we needed defensive help and it wasn't there.'

Forest Grove trailed by 12 heading into the fourth quarter and the Lady Viks mounted a valiant comeback attempt, but it came up short.

Senior center Sallye Alexander came to life in the opening moments of the fourth, scoring five straight points on a nice move inside and a step-out 3-pointer from the top of the key. Teammate and fellow senior Sarah Amina drilled a pull-up jumper a minute and a half later to pull Forest Grove within five, but that would be as close as the Lady Viks would get.

Adzasu converted a three-point play after being fouled by Alexander, then stole a pass near midcourt and went straight to the hole for a bucket and a 58-48 West Linn lead. The rest was academic, as the Lions went into a stall offense and won by 13.

After the game, Waiwaiole diagnosed the Lady Vikings' two most glaring weaknesses as shoddy defense and an inability to crack West Linn's pressure defense.

'We spent pretty much all week working on press break and defense,' he said. 'We know we need to get better in those areas.'

Westview will put Forest Grove's press breaking skills to the test with full-court pressure, so that game will be a good barometer of the Vikings' progress.

On the offensive end, Alexander had her best game of the year against West Linn, pouring in 21 points. An All-State and conference Player of the Year candidate after a stellar junior campaign, Alexander will need to continue to get lots of touches on the offensive end.

The Lady Viks also have a game next Monday against St. Mary's Academy, followed by the Canby holiday tournament from Dec. 27-29. After that, Pacific Conference play begins, and it will have a slightly new look this season as teams play each of their league opponents three times instead of two.

'That's going to be tough,' said Waiwaiole. 'A team can grow a lot in a month and a half. A team you play on Jan. 5 might not be the same team on Feb. 23. So conference play is going to be tricky this year.'

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