BASKETBALL: Vikings have won three of their last four games to gain some momentum heading into Christmas break
by: Zack Palmer, Forest Grove senior Dusty Klein gets fouled by Sandy's Jason Summerfield while attempting a layup during last Wednesdaay's non-conference basketball game.

SANDY - Forest Grove got a much-needed win on the road last Wednesday, beating Sandy 53-41 to match last season's win total and send the Vikings into winter break on a high note.

Forest Grove (3-4) won only three games last year as the program rebuilt under head coach Doug Hofmeister, but things are looking up this season. Last Wednesday's non-conference victory over Sandy (0-7) gave the Vikings three wins in their last four games - a nice streak to carry into the holidays.

'I think we can be pretty good if we can get everybody clicking,' Hofmeister said after the game. 'Sometimes you use a win to motivate the kids and push them a little bit. I challenged them after the game and told them that we still need to get better.'

The Vikings had to weather a hard charge from Sandy in the third quarter last Wednesday. A four-and-a-half-minute scoreless stretch allowed Sandy to rattle off a 12-0 run and turn what appeared to be a runaway Forest Grove victory into a nailbiter.

Forest Grove junior Tony Pacheco scored four quick points to start the third quarter and give the Vikings a 30-14 lead with 5:44 remaining. Forest Grove would not score again until the 1:07 mark, and by that time Sandy had trimmed the lead to four points.

Tommy D'Aboy scored seven points and Jerad Spencer hit a three-pointer from the right wing to cap the Pioneers' surge, slicing Forest Grove's lead to 30-26.

'I think I used a couple time outs during that stretch,' Hofmeister said. 'They were pressing us and we were having a tough time figuring things out.'

Strong inside play from Codey Hills and Trevor Robbins put the Vikings back on top 36-26 at the end of the third quarter, and junior point guard Brett Baumgartner drilled a deep three-pointer to open the fourth, nudging the advantage to a more comfortable 13 points.

Forest Grove's lead would never dip lower than eight points the rest of the way, as the Vikings went 12-for-12 from the free throw in the fourth quarter.

Baumgartner led Forest Grove with 17 points and senior Dusty Klein added 10. Pacheco, making his first start of the season, had a career-high 14 points.

'Tony is one of the guys we need to start playing better, and he really stepped up,' Hofmeister said. 'He was key for us. We're trying to get him more involved because we think he can be a difference-maker.'

D'Aboy and Paul Widmer led Sandy with 14 points apiece.

Forest Grove seemed poised to run away with Wednesday's game after a scoring flurry late in the first half. Leading 20-11, the Vikings scored six points in just over 10 seconds to extend their lead to 15 points at halftime.

Baumgartner fed Hills inside for a layup to get things started. Klein then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and converted a left-handed layup. Seconds later, Pacheco intercepted a pass and pushed the ball ahead to Klein for another layup, capping a 6-0 run in 12 seconds.

'That made it a little more comfortable at halftime,' Hofmeister said. 'I've got to hand it to our guards on that series. We were pressing and that was just them being crafty and getting their hands in there and getting steals. That made a big difference.'

The game was tied at 7-7 late in the first quarter but Baumgartner drilled a three-pointer from the right wing with 40 seconds left to give the Vikings a 10-7 lead at the end of the period. The junior point guard hit another three early in the second quarter and his breakaway layup with 2:35 remaining gave Forest Grove an 18-11 cushion.

'It's tough to score from the point guard position when you're trying to set your teammates up,' Hofmeister said. 'Brett is looking to score a lot more now and we're running some plays that are designed for him to get a shot.'

Forest Grove practiced last Thursday and Friday, then took some time off for the holidays. The Vikings will be back in action at the Centennial Tournament in Gresham this weekend.

Forest Grove opens the tournament on Friday against 4A North Marion (3-4). Other teams appearing at the tournament will include Reynolds, Milwaukie, Newberg, McKay, South Salem and host Centennial.

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