BASKETBALL: Forest Grove drops its conference opener against Tigard, but things are looking up for the Vikings
by: Kathy Storm, Forest Grove senior Dusty Klein goes airborne for a shot last Friday night in a game against Tigard.

Doug Hofmeister isn't interested in moral victories. A loss is still a loss. But last Friday's 45-36 setback against Tigard showed the veteran coach that his team just might have what it takes to ruffle some feathers in the Pacific Conference this season.

'I felt pretty good after the game,' Hofmeister said. 'The kids were disappointed because we still want to win, but at least it gives them the idea that we can beat some teams in the league this year.'

Forest Grove (4-7, 0-1) rebounded nicely from a few disappointing results over the holidays to give Tigard (6-4, 1-0) a run for its money in both teams' conference opener last Friday. The Tigers, a preseason favorite to compete for the league title, led by just five points in the fourth quarter before pulling away in the final minutes.

'Overall I think we deserved to win as far as the effort and intensity we showed,' Hofmeister said. 'We had a couple plays that didn't go our way, then [Tigard] went down and scored and it kind of got away from us. But I thought we played awfully well.'

Forest Grove got eight points apiece from Dusty Klein, Nick Mulick and Mychal Barrios. Brett Baumgartner added six points.

Barrios earned his first start of the season and scored two quick baskets to give Forest Grove a 4-0 lead, prompting a Tigard time out. The Tigers responded with a 14-2 run over the remainder of the first quarter and eventually led 27-20 at halftime.

Forest Grove kept things close in the third quarter and pulled within five midway through the fourth before Tigard rallied to put things away in the closing moments. A missed Forest Grove layup turned into a three-point play for Tigard at the other end, capping a five-point swing and effectively putting the game out of reach.

The Vikings were once again hampered by poor shooting, checking in under 40 percent from the field, but Hofmeister was encouraged by his team's tenacity.

'Tigard is a physical team and we didn't let them push us around,' he said. 'We've just got to shoot the ball better - that's our Achilles heel. If we can shoot the ball better I think we can knock some teams off.'

Forest Grove hosted Tualatin on Tuesday, but results were not available at press time. Next up for the Viks is a trip to McMinnville on Friday, where they will be charged with the task of stopping Kyle Long, one of the state's leading scorers at 22.4 points per game.

'He's probably the best player in the league,' Hofmeister said of Long. 'He's getting 24, 25 points a game right now, so that will be a real challenge.

'From this point on every game will be a real challenge. The league is getting tougher and tougher every year.'

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