Vikings eyeing improvement once league play begins

BASKETBALL: Forest Grove prepares to start conference play this Friday against Tigard

Forest Grove learned a lot last week about what it's going to take to compete in the Pacific Conference this season.

The Vikings traveled to Centennial for a holiday tournament from Dec. 27-29, splitting with North Marion and Centennial in the first two rounds. The real lesson came in round three when the Vikings took on Pacific Conference rival Newberg.

The Tigers (2-6) finished last in the league a year ago - two games behind Forest Grove. On Dec. 29, however, a much-improved Newberg squad gave the Vikings all they could handle, eventually cruising to a 62-49 victory.

'Newberg has really been playing well lately,' said Forest Grove head coach Doug Hofmeister. 'They're a totally different team than they were last year. They're even a different team than when we played them in the summer time.'

Featuring a roster that includes six sophomores and two juniors, Newberg's young team attacked the Vikings with fearlessness. The Tigers shot 41 percent (9 for 22) from three-point range and dominated the majority of the game to show Hofmeister and his squad that there will be no easy wins in the conference this season.

'They're going to be pretty good,' Hofmeister said. 'That game really showed us what we need to work on, what areas we need to improve.'

Despite losing two of their three games at the tournament, there were some bright spots for the Vikings.

Forest Grove opened the tournament on Dec. 27 with a resounding 95-59 win over North Marion (3-6). Dusty Klein, Nick Mulick, Trevor Robbins, Santiago Olvera and Brett Baumgartner all scored in double figures, and 11 different players cracked the scoring column.

The next day Forest Grove fell 77-54 to Centennial (8-4), but the Eagles' resume already includes wins over perennial Pacific Conference powers Tigard and Tualatin. Klein scored 18 points against Centennial and finished the three-day tournament with 46 points. Mulick, a junior post, showed great development during the tournament with 30 points in three games.

'Nick is really playing a lot better,' Hofmeister said. 'He's grown a lot already this season.'

The Vikings will open Pacific Conference play on Friday at home against Tigard, then square off against Tualatin and McMinnville next week before getting a rematch with Newberg on Tuesday, Jan. 22.