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Up-tempo Vikings run out of gas against Timberwolves


Sprain sidelines star guard Michael Garcia in loss to Tualatin but Forest Grove rebounds with a win over Glencoe

by: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove post Rodney Jensen (14) moves to the basket past a Tualatin defender in last Tuesday's 60-91 loss to the TimberwolvesForest Grove High boys basketball coach Greg Evers has been concerned about his team’s conditioning since the Vikings had a week-long layoff in their schedule during winter break.

With the fast-paced, up-and-down system that Forest Grove likes to run, conditioning is more important for the Vikings than it is for most teams.

The last couple of weeks, Evers has been pushing Forest Grove hard in practice, trying to get his players into the desired shape. But last Tuesday against Tualatin, a program that runs the same kind of up-and-down system as Forest Grove, the Vikings’ lack of elite-level conditioning cost them.

Forest Grove played Tualatin to a near draw in the first half, going into the locker room trailing 44-43.

“I felt really good about the first half,” Evers says. “There were a lot of positives. It was pretty smooth.”

To get to halftime with the score so close, however, Evers was forced to use his starting players for long stretches at a time, while Tualatin subbed more freely.

“Tualatin plays quite a few people, and we play quite a bit, too, but we have a pretty good core that plays a lot of minutes,” Evers says. “Our kids at halftime were pretty gassed. Maybe we were on our legs too much the Monday before in practice. Most kids can’t run at that pace. They just can’t work as hard as we’re requiring them to work.”

“They (Tualatin) ran us pretty hard in the first half, and they were still pretty fresh.”

After the high-octane pace of the first half, the Vikings had little left for the rest of the game, while the Timberwolves came out of the locker room fairly fresh.

“They came out at halftime and made an adjustment with their press, and we got outscored 25-2 in the third,” Evers says. “So the game ran away from us fairly quickly. Then it went into panic mode.”

At the final buzzer, Tualatin had turned the game into a 91-60 blowout.

“I don’t think that the score ended up indicative of where that game should’ve been,” Evers says. “But that’s what that up-and-down system will do. It will make it ugly in a hurry.”

To add injury to insult, Michael Garcia, Forest Grove’s star point guard, sprained his ankle in the third quarter against Tualatin.

“He sprained it pretty good,” Evers says. “He was on crutches until Sunday.”

That meant Forest Grove had to go into Friday’s road game at Glencoe shorthanded.

“We knew that it was going to be a dogfight,” Evers says.

The Vikings began the game slowly, falling behind 14-4 after the first quarter. However, Forest Grove battled back and began making some shots. The Vikings eventually prevailed with a 58-50 victory.

“We got into the hole early,” Evers says. “But our kids, to their credit, came back and fought. They (Glencoe players) made some shots and made some plays to keep it really close. It was a pretty hard-fought victory and a good one for our kids.”

Forest Grove will most likely have to try again to find a way to win without Garcia in Tuesday’s game against Century, though Evers is hoping his hot-shooting guard will be available for Friday’s game against McMinnville, at least in a limited role.

“McMinnville is coming to our place and that’s a huge game,” Evers says. “But, even if he plays, I’m not sure what we’re going to do with him yet. It might be him playing in the off-guard position, where he doesn’t have to put so much pressure on that ankle. We’ll see what happens. I’m hoping to have him back by Friday, but it could be longer than that.”

Not having Garcia available could be a blessing in disguise for Forest Grove, if other players are able to step up their game in his absence.

“The one good thing about Michael being out is that this is good experience for the other kids who were sort of relying on him,” Evers says. “He does so many things for us. This will be huge for us in the long run. I just hope that it doesn’t cost us enough victories along the way that we can’t get into the top four in the Pacific Conference and get an automatic qualifier for the playoffs.”