GIRLS BASKETBALL: Lady Vikings lose out on the Pacific Conference's No. 3 seed after a 20-point loss to Canby in their regular-season finale
For the second season in a row, Forest Grove's playoff fate hinged on the outcome of its final regular season game. And for the second season in a row, the Lady Vikings swallowed a frustrating loss.
Forest Grove needed a win over Canby on Friday to vault into third place in the Pacific Conference standings, but instead settled for an ugly 59-39 setback that was oddly similar to last year's season-ending loss to Newberg.
The biggest difference? This year the Lady Viks are still going dancing, while last year's 55-47 loss to Newberg bounced the team from playoff contention.
'This is reminiscent of last year except for one thing - we're not done yet,' said Forest Grove head coach Po Waiwaiole. 'It is what it is, but this is still a step forward and it's something to be proud of.'
A win on Friday would have given Forest Grove (11-13, 6-9) the league's No. 3 seed for the 6A state playoffs, which begin this week. Instead, Canby (14-10, 8-7) gets that honor while the Lady Viks must settle for fourth place. But it's still better than last season, when Newberg came to town and ended Forest Grove's season with an eight-point victory.
Friday's loss to Canby was similar to last year's season-ending setback against Newberg, as Forest Grove dug itself an early deficit that was simply too much to overcome. The Lady Viks came out flat while the visiting Lady Cougars made six of their first seven field goal attempts en route to an early 12-4 lead.
Powered in the paint by juniors Julianne Erbe and Katie Martin, Canby jumped out to a 21-9 lead by the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Forest Grove clamped down defensively in the second half, but simply could not make up enough ground to overcome the 19-point halftime deficit.
'In the second half, we started to buckle down and play some pretty tough-nosed defense, and we slowed them down considerably. But we got some bad bounces and little things like that,' said Waiwaiole. 'You kind of need all those things to break your way when you're trying to claw your way back into it.'
Martin almost singlehandedly outscored Forest Grove in the first half, putting up 17 of her game-high 27 points before the break. The junior post was 8 of 15 from the field and a perfect 11 for 11 from the free throw line, and she also had a game-high nine rebounds. Erbe, meanwhile, scored 20 points on 7-for-12 shooting. The duo dominated the paint all evening, combining to score 80 percent of Canby's points.
Forest Grove got 17 points and seven rebounds from senior Sallye Alexander, but it was not enough to overcome a chilly shooting night. As a team, the Lady Vikings shot just 33 percent from the field (14 for 43). Sarah Amina had six points and Kendra Berning added five.
The loss was reminiscent in some ways of the Lady Vikings' 75-44 loss to Canby on Dec. 29 at the Canby Holiday Invitational, but Waiwaiole maintained that Friday's setback was not nearly as overwhelming.
'[Canby] played better tonight. They were faster with their rotations,' he said. 'I didn't feel like it was the same as the first time we played them, when we got beat pretty soundly. In that game we got physically overmatched, and I felt like we held our own on that end tonight. They were just a lot sharper.'
Before Friday's game, Forest Grove honored its six seniors: Alexander, Amina, Nikki Kemper, Amanda Godinez, Sarah Rivera and Tina Freeman. The emotion of playing their final home game, Waiwaiole said, may have hampered the Lady Viks' cause.
'I hate to blame it on this, but it seemed like Senior Night jitters. It was sort of the same thing last year. We were too amped or too something. We weren't sharp enough at the beginning of the game,' he said. 'On the flip side, [Canby is] coming with some fire in their belly, looking for revenge. We're a little bit jittery from Senior Night and all the emotional stuff that goes on with that. And it was a big game on top of that.'
But despite the loss, Forest Grove is still playoff bound for the first time since the 2004-05 season, when the Lady Vikings won the Pac-9 championship and advanced to the third round of the state playoffs. Ironically, Forest Grove's season ended that year with a loss to Central Catholic, the same team the Viks will face on Tuesday in Round 1 of the 6A state playoffs.
Results of Tuesday's playoff game were not available at press time. Please check here for an updated score and a preview of the game, written on Tuesday morning.
'We got playoff T-shirts made after we clinched a spot and the quote they wanted to put on the back was, 'We did it.' This group came out of the shadow of probably one of the best Forest Grove teams ever, and there was some doubt about whether they could come together and accomplish a goal like this. There were doubters. But they've come together and they did it. I'm real proud of them for that and I'm real privileged to have been part of the experience,' said Waiwaiole. 'Is this what we would have wanted? No. But still, the league was tough this year. Playing everybody three times was tough.'