BASKETBALL: Lady Vikings overcome fourth-quarter deficit to shoot down McMinnville

As wins go, few are as important or as necessary as Forest Grove's 49-46 triumph over McMinnville Friday night.

Mired in a four-game tailspin that included losses by 40, 28, 26 and 13 points, Forest Grove desperately needed a win when McMinnville came calling for a Pacific Conference girls basketball game, and the Lady Vikings had to dig deep to get it.

McMinnville (7-7, 2-3) led by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the visiting Grizzlies withered in the final five minutes under Forest Grove's relentless full-court pressure. Forest Grove (5-10, 1-4) closed the game on a 17-4 run, including a 10-1 spurt in the final 1:10 that allowed the Lady Vikings to pick up their first conference win of the season.

'Coming back from a deficit like that in almost any circumstance shows a lot of heart,' said Forest Grove head coach Po Waiwaiole. 'But for a team that's lost four in a row and has taken a pretty big beating in its last three [games], that showed even more heart than usual.'

Forest Grove trailed 42-32 at the five-minute mark on Friday, but scored seven straight points to get back in the mix. Still, the Lady Vikings found themselves down by six with 1:10 remaining. Waiwaiole called a time out to rally his troops and ask for one more surge. He got exactly what he asked for.

Taylor Janac hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to slice the deficit to three points, and after a defensive stop, Kendra Berning collected a loose ball and scored while being fouled. She made the ensuing free throw with 40 seconds left to tie the game at 45-45.

At the other end, Mac missed the front end of a one-and-one, leaving the door open for Forest Grove. After a time out, Berning collected a pass from point guard Rebecca Kelsay and knocked down a jump shot from just inside the three-point line to put the Vikings up by two.

The rest was academic. Mac made the front end of a one-and-one but missed the back end, and Berning grabbed the rebound before being fouled. An emotional Berning made both free throws to seal the victory for Forest Grove.

'Kendra was huge. She scored the last seven points of the game for us,' Waiwaiole said. 'When she went to the line for those two free throws at the end of the game, she was in tears because she was so emotional. She really stepped up.'

Waiwaiole also had high praise for Kelsay, whose guidance on both the offensive and defensive ends helped fuel Forest Grove's late comeback.

'Becca did a great job of managing the game in the last five minutes,' Waiwaiole said. 'She got some good looks, she penetrated and scored. She did a great job of getting other people looks as well.'

Berning and Kelsay led the way with 12 points apiece. April Maslen had eight for the Lady Vikings.

McMinnville got a game-high 14 points from Lindsay Wickman and 11 more from Jessica Randall.

The game was a see-saw battle in the first half with Mac eventually taking a three-point halftime lead. The Grizzlies started to pull away with an 11-6 run in the third quarter before taking their largest lead of the game at 42-32 with five minutes remaining.

'We started pressing in the fourth quarter and we just kind of wore them down,' Waiwaiole said. 'It was a combination of things. We got some turnovers that led to easy baskets, but even when [Mac] got the ball into the front court they were disorganized and wouldn't get a good look.'

McMinnville also hampered its cause with poor free throw shooting, going 6 for 14 in the fourth quarter.

'This was a huge win for us,' Waiwaiole said. 'I told the girls at practice [on Monday] that now we've tasted both ends of it in league. Now we've got to do everything we can to keep the good feeling and avoid the bad one.'

Forest Grove started its second run through the league schedule on Tuesday against Newberg, but results were not available at press time. Next on the docket is a road trip to Canby (9-5, 3-2) on Friday.

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