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Forest Grove's postseason run ends with a loss to four-time defending state champion Jesuit

When a basketball coach says that a team “couldn’t miss,” it’s usually hyperbole — a figure of speech meant to explain a team’s poor defense or an opponent’s hot shooting.

When Forest Grove head coach Greg Evers said it following last Tuesday’s 87-50 state playoff loss to second-ranked Jesuit, he meant exactly what he said.

Underdog Forest Grove (14-12)led by five points late in the second quarter, but watched as Jesuit (23-2) went on a 22-4 run to close out the half, a three-minute stretch in which the Crusaders did not miss a single shot.

“With three minutes to go we were in great shape,” Evers said. “I didn’t want to use another timeout there because we were playing pretty well. The next thing we know, a five-point lead turned into a 13-point deficit.”

Jesuit sophomore Ryan Bay scored 18 of his game-high 28 points in the second quarter to spark the Crusaders, who shot 80 percent (33-of-41) from inside the three-point line.

Khyan Rayner scored 14 points for Jesuit, the four-time defending Class 6A state champions, and Xavier Coleman added 10.

“It was a one-man show in the second quarter,” Evers said of Bay. “He’s a good player, and we knew he was a good player, but this is a kid who averages about six points per game, so we didn’t really expect him to go off like that.”

Jesuit continued to widen the gap in the second half, and a close game turned into a blowout.

“The score wasn’t indicative of the game,” Evers said. “The last 19 minutes of the game, they put the ball in the basket at a rate I rarely see.”

Despite the loss, the future looks bright for the Forest Grove basketball program. Under Evers’ direction, the Vikings improved from three wins in 2010-11 to seven wins last year and 14 victories this season, which sent Forest Grove to the state playoffs for only the third time in the past 15 years.

With 11 of 14 players eligible to return next year, Evers is understandably excited about the direction of the program.

“We want to win the league title next year. That’s our goal,” Evers said. “We played with every single team in our league this year for chunks of time, we just couldn’t always put together a full game.

“It’s difficult to play a full 32 minutes at that level with such a young team, but next year all these guys will be a year older and stronger and more experienced. We’re really excited.”

Among the returners will be junior point guard Michael Garcia, who led the Pacific Conference in scoring at 18.3 points per game and became the first Viking to earn First Team All-Conference honors since Luke Peters in 2008-09.

“He was a big reason we won as many games as we did,” Evers said of Garcia, who set a Forest Grove single-season record with 66 three-point field goals and became only the 12th Viking in history to be named First Team All-League.

Garcia was joined on the All-Conference team by sophomore Zac Collins and freshman Taylor Jensen, both of whom were honorable mention picks.

Collins averaged 6.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game for the Vikings, while Jensen, in his first season of varsity play, averaged 11.6 points per game and led the team with 54 steals, the fourth highest single-season total in school history.

“Taylor had a darn good season for a freshman,” Evers said. “He was one of the top freshmen in the league, no doubt about it.”

Also returning next year will be junior Jon Cirlincione, who was the team’s third-leading scorer at 8.7 points per game.

“Next year’s senior class is a good one to go after a league championship,” Evers said. “And when they depart, the next year’s senior class should be awfully good, too.

“The program looks like it should be solid for a number of years. We’re not like some teams that have a whole bunch of good players in one class. We’ve got several talented players in each class down the line, even through our youth program, so I think we’ll be in good shape for a while.”

With the Vikings setting their sights higher in future years, one of Evers’ challenges will be scheduling. The OSAA’s power ranking system rewards teams for playing tougher opponents, often times without regard to whether they win or lose.

“With the way things are run these days with the ranking system, we want to schedule as tough as possible, so even if we get better we may not see a huge jump in victories next year,” Evers said. “Now we’re in position to schedule tougher teams and we’ve got to do everything we can to get our ranking as high as possible.”

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