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Vikings lose tough one to Mac

BASKETBALL: Forest Grove's spirited rally falls short against McMinnville
by: Zack Palmer, McMinnville’s Michael Burke (No. 5) draws an offensive foul from Forest Grove junior Tony Pacheco during the first half of Friday’s Pacific Conference game.

MCMINNVILLE - As the final seconds of his final time out ticked away Friday night, Forest Grove boys basketball coach Doug Hofmeister tuned out the rowdy McMinnville crowd and frantically diagrammed the play he hoped would result in a wide-open shot and his team's first Pacific Conference victory of the season.

It turned out that sketching a play on a clipboard is the easy part. Getting your team to properly execute that play on the road in a hostile environment against an opponent that has played lockdown defense all night, well, that's the hard part.

'It's not really something we practice,' said Hofmeister of late-game, last-shot situations. 'It was sort of a domino effect - one part goes wrong and then everything else starts to go wrong.'

Hofmeister watched helplessly from the bench as the final 15.1 seconds flitted away Friday night, his Vikings trailing McMinnville, 47-46. As the play unfolded, everything was taking longer to materialize than it had moments earlier in the Viking huddle. Every cut, every screen, every pass. Hofmeister knew the game was over before Codey Hills launched an off-balance, desperation three-pointer at the buzzer, which cracked off the backboard and bounced harmlessly away.

So what went wrong? Hofmeister gives a lot of credit to McMinnville's suffocating defense. The veteran coach also takes some of the blame for not spending much practice time on properly executing endgame situations. Whatever the reason, the result was a frantic scramble to get off a shot before the buzzer - not to mention a disappointing loss that dropped Forest Grove to 0-3 in league play this year.

'I was frustrated afterward because that was a game we could have won,' Hofmeister said.

The play Hofmeister diagrammed in the huddle was a set offensive play that the Vikings run often. In fact, they ran it at least twice in the second half to get wide-open shots - both three-pointers from the top of the key that Hills knocked down to keep McMinnville from running away with the game.

The design was simple. Inbound the ball to senior guard Dusty Klein, then a quick pass to Trevor Robbins on the right wing. Meanwhile, Klein sets a screen for Hills, who pops out to the top of the key for an open three. If the jumper isn't there, Hills looks for Robbins breaking to the basket off a screen from forward Nick Mulick.

'I thought we'd get either one of those looks. Either Codey shooting a three or Trevor cutting to the basket,' Hofmeister said.

McMinnville mucked up the Vikings' plans from the word 'go,' with senior Kyle Long harrassing Robbins on the wing and denying the first pass. By the time Klein got the ball into Robbins' hands, Forest Grove was already behind the eight ball. Robbins eventually found enough breathing room to get the ball to Hills, but more airtight defense from Mac kept the senior from getting a good look at the basket. With time winding down and fans enouraging a shot, Hills leaned to his right and heaved an off-balance shot at the buzzer. No good.

'The problem started because of their defense,' Hofmeister said. 'It took us five seconds to get the ball to the wing and then we had to rush the rest of the play. I haven't watched the tape yet, but I think Trevor was open. Codey just didn't have enough time to look for him cutting.'

While the loss was undeniably frustrating, some good has come from it. The Vikings spent Monday's practice working on a late-game play to run out of their normal spread offense.

'If we have that situation again, we won't even need to call a time out,' Hofmeister said. 'We can just come down, run our normal spread offense and then go into a play.'

The Viks wrapped up the first round of league play on Tuesday against Newberg, but results weren't available at press time. Next up is a home game against Canby on Friday.