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Back on the winning track

BOYS BASKETBALL: Forest Grove boys snap a seven-game losing streak with a runaway 71-52 Pacific Conference victory over rival Newberg

With under two minutes to play in last Tuesday's Pacific Conference game against Newberg, Forest Grove junior Trevor Robbins went on a fast break and was able to draw a foul as he went in for a layup. Robbins missed the layup but did hit the two ensuing free throws, which put Forest Grove up 62-52, their biggest lead of the night.

The foul that Robbins drew did not sit well in the stomachs of the Newberg players or coaches, however, leading to a tongue-lashing of the officials. Because of their jawing, two Newberg players - seniors Drew Stendil and Lonny Gardner - as well as head coach Mark Vernon, each received technical fouls. The result was a series of six free throws (two for each technical foul), which were taken by Brock Christensen. The senior hit five of the six freebies, only missing the first, to give the Vikings a commanding 67-52 lead.

Seniors Dylan Sullivan and Josh Seitz put the final nails in the coffin, adding two more points apiece to cap a 31-point quarter for the Vikings, which provided more than enough cushion for a 71-52 victory, Forest Grove's first since Jan. 24.

'These are the best group of kids ever,' said Forest Grove head coach Doug Hofmeister after the game. 'Nobody deserves it more then these kids.'

Considering that it was Senior Night, nothing was more fitting than having three seniors score the final nine points of the game. And on a night when the Viking seniors were honored, each senior contributed to the win in the team's final home game of the season.

Seitz put up eight points and Sullivan had 12. Mike Krebsbach started the game and pulled down two rebounds in the first quarter while Mike VandeBergh added seven points and three boards. Christensen had the most impressive numbers on the night with 17 points, three rebounds and one steal. He put up 14 of his points in the fourth quarter.

The game did not start out so hot for the Vikings, as they were down 12-17 after the first quarter. Forest Grove battled back to within one at 19-18 in the second frame, but were held up by Newberg's defense and entered halftime down 34-27.

The third period is where the Vikings found their momentum, finally outscoring the Tigers 13-12 to close the gap to 46-40.

But it was not until the final six minutes that Christensen took charge and executed the most important and spectacular layup of his life, which tied the game at 46.

The Tigers answered with a 3-pointer to reclaim their game-long lead, but Christensen asserted his power a second time and answered with a three of his own. Robbins and sophomore Brett Baumgartner each lent a hand to Forest Grove's cause, hitting the second and third 3-point shots in a row to put the Vikings up 55-51 - their first lead since opening the game on a 6-0 run with back-to-back treys by Christensen and Seitz.

Newberg slowly began to unravel after coughing up the lead, and Forest Grove gladly seized the momentum. Leading by eight, Robbins coasted in for the would-be layup that ultimately decided the game's outcome. Eight straight shots from the charity stripe - seven of which were converted - gave the Vikings a 15-point lead that proved insurmountable.

The excitement of Tuesday's win was tempered somewhat by a forgettable 72-29 loss to Canby on the road in both teams' regular-season finale.

Forest Grove hung with the Cougars through the first quarter, down just 15-7, but Canby took charge in the second period with a brutal 21-4 surge.

The Vikings finished the game a dismal 7 for 40 from the field and lost their final game of the season by a whopping 42 points. Klein was the only Viking able to reach double figures with 10 point.

Despite the loss, Hofmeister still had his customary chuckle and unmistakable smile after the game as he extolled the play and attitude of his athletes.

'These kids are so resilient,' he said. 'This season they earned respect from the school, league and community.'

Hofmeister added that there were only five of the team's 15 games where they did not compete with their opponent, which he noted as an accomplishment.

Next year the Vikings will have 10 players returning that have varsity playing experience as well as a slew of junior varsity players who can 'step right in,' according to Hofmeister.

Hofmeister added that this summer he is hoping for the same transformation he has seen over the past 10 months.

'We have come a million miles since last summer,' he said. 'These kids have a never-say-die attitude and they deserve all the respect they have received.'