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Sputtering to the finish line
BASKETBALL: Forest Grove closes its season with seven straight losses, including an 81-52 setback on Senior Night
It wasn't the ending Forest Grove boys basketball coach Doug Hofmeister or his team's five seniors would have wanted, but the Vikings' frustrating season came to a close last week with losses to Newberg and Canby.
Forest Grove (5-20, 1-14) finished the season with seven straight losses after a 48-44 win over McMinnville on Feb. 5, the team's first and only Pacific Conference victory of the year. The final two setbacks came last week - a 60-51 loss to Newberg on Tuesday and an 81-52 loss to Canby on Senior Night last Friday.
'It's been kind of a mixed bag this season,' Hofmeister said. 'The kids played hard and they're great kids. I was hoping their efforts would pay off with a few more wins.'
Last Tuesday's road game against Newberg (9-16, 5-10) was close until the fourth quarter when the Tigers pulled away. It was the fourth time Newberg beat Forest Grove this season, dating back to a 62-49 triumph at the Centennial Holiday Tournament in December.
'We were right there the entire game,' Hofmeister said. 'They're a pretty good team, though. We had trouble with them all season.'
Juniors Luke Peters and Nick Mulick stepped up and led Forest Grove with 12 points apiece. Newberg got 17 points each from Taylor Braun and A.J. Grant, plus 12 more from Jordan Howell.
Newberg led 32-29 at halftime and the margin remained three points heading into the fourth quarter before Newberg slowly pulled away. As it turned out, Tuesday's game proved to be the Vikings' last real shot at a win.
'It was a frustrating game,' Hofmeister said. 'We were hoping we could get that one. The kids were pretty down after the game.'
Forest Grove returned home on Friday for Senior Night against Canby (15-9, 10-5). Once again, a game that was close in the early going spiralled into a 29-point loss as Canby heaped it on in the second half. Reserve forward Derek Hamill scored a team-high 19 points for the Cougars and teammate Michael Stogsdill added 15.
Forest Grove got a career-high 20 points from senior Codey Hills in his final game in maroon and gold. Fellow senior Trevor Robbins also had a career night with 12 points, while Santiago Olvera had two points in his last game.
Senior Dusty Klein, who led the Vikings in scoring before being shelved the last seven games with a stress fracture in his leg, returned to the starting lineup and hit a three-pointer off a designed play to tie the game in the opening moments of the first quarter. He left the game shortly thereafter to a round of applause from Forest Grove fans.
The Vikings led for much of the first quarter before a late barrage put Canby on top, 15-12, heading into the second frame. The Cougars would pad their lead to nine points by halftime.
'In the first quarter we dominated, but a couple bad bounces and they went up by three,' Hofmeister said. 'Toward the end of the third quarter was when it really got away from us. [Canby] got some easy rebounds and they just run so well. They ran us out of the gym.'
Canby's lead ballooned to 16 points by the end of the third quarter and continued to grow in the fourth. Both teams substituted liberally in the final stanza.
'Toward the end of the year we tried to be a lot more patient with our shot selection. We tried to spread the floor and get layups and easy shots,' Hofmeister said. 'It seemed like whenever we tried to push the tempo, teams would get out and get some easy baskets against us.'
Despite the team's struggles, Hofmeister said he feels like the program is moving in the right direction.
'The young kids are coming along well,' he said. 'We've got nine kids with some level of varsity experience and six kids who got significant minutes who will all be back next year. We should be pretty competitive.'
Looking back on the season, Hofmeister had praise for his five seniors - Klein, Hills, Robbins, Olvera and Harrison Kistler.
'These seniors are just some of the greatest kids in the world,' he said. 'They worked hard and laid the ground work for this program. I think we put ourselves in better position for the future.'