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Forest Grove loses to league-leading Tigard, and also loses its all-leaguer in the process

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove senior Dashay Khan elevates for a shot over the Tigard defense during last Friday's Pacific Conference basketball game.The third quarter took all of the air out of this one.

After the Forest Grove and Tigard boys basketball teams entered halftime tied at 31-all, it appeared as if Friday’s Pacific Conference top-two showdown might be headed for the wire.

Instead, aided by three third-quarter 3-pointers, the Tigers exploded for 20 points in the period to build a double-digit lead and the Vikings could never mount a comeback en route to a 71-55 defeat at Joe Moran Court.

To add injury to insult, with just more than two minutes remaining in that third stanza, Forest Grove all-league point guard Michael Garcia went down after a collision and left the game with what appeared to be a serious knee injury.

After the game, Forest Grove coach Greg Evers was already starting to ponder the impact of the injury to his reigning first-team all-conference guard, expecting for Garcia to be out for an extended length of time.

“I haven’t even thought about it much yet, but to see how we’re going to replace Michael and fit into our rotation,” Evers said. “I have no idea what we’re going to do yet, but we’ll have to make some adjustments without him.”

Garcia’s teammates’ thoughts also were with him after the contest. Rather than lingering over the loss, the Vikings headed to the hospital to join Garcia, who left before the game ended.

Garcia said Monday that he had been diagnosed with a severe sprain to the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. Though the injury is not expected to require surgery, Garcia said he is expecting to miss the rest of the season while he recovers. He begins physical therapy later this week.

That injury stamped a low note on the end of a tough week for the Vikings. Last Tuesday, they suffered their first conference loss of the season in a 71-63 setback to Newberg. The Tigard result left the team at 12-5 overall and 5-2 in league play, tied with Tualatin for second place halfway through the conference slate.

“Adversity happens. You just gotta battle. Long season,” said Taylor Jensen, who led Forest Grove with 12 points, six rebounds and four assists. “We’re only seven games into it — halfway. We’ll take 5-2. We’re still second place.”

Neither team led by more than six points in a tightly contested first half that put a number of players in foul trouble, including Jensen, Angler Emerick and Zac Collins, who had three personals each at the intermission.

When play resumed, the third quarter began with the same nip-and-tuck play that had characterized the first half, but midway through, Tigard started to edge out. The Tigers’ lead swelled to 49-39 on their second long-range bomb — this one by Nick Kaelin — of the period, the shot coming on the same play in which Garcia was injured.

With their senior leader out, the Vikings had little time to gather themselves, and the visitors opened the lead to as many as 19 points late in the game before Bailey Evers — the coach’s freshman son — knocked down his first varsity 3-pointer to account for the final margin.

The foul trouble that plagued the elder Evers’ team made executing the game plan a challenge.

“To be honest, the foul trouble, it hurt us in the second half, although that wasn’t the only factor,” Evers said. “And maybe it was in a roundabout way, because we couldn’t defend as physically as we wanted in the second half because we had three starters with three fouls and then got a couple quick ones early (in the second half).”

Elijah Simon led four Tigers into double figures with 22 points. Kaelin scored 16, Bryan Berg had 14, and Joel Johnson chipped in 10. As a team, Tigard shot 56.4 percent from field goal range (22-for-39).

Jon Cirlincione continued to provide some scoring pop off the bench for Forest Grove, scoring 10 points before he fouled out early in the fourth quarter. Godfrey added eight points and Collins scored seven.

Like Evers, Cirlincione was already thinking about what Garcia’s injury might mean afterward.

“I feel like I gotta step up a little more now that he’s possibly going to be out for a bit,” the senior wing said.

Moving forward, the Vikings’ schedule left them with little time to adjust to Garcia’s absence. They were scheduled to host Tualatin on Tuesday, with the winner taking over sole possession of second place. (Results were not available at press time.) The Vikings knocked off the Timberwolves 69-63 on Jan. 14. Tualatin also lost to Tigard three days later before rattling off four wins in a row heading into the second round of league play.

The Vikings are on the road Friday at Glencoe for the second half of a doubleheader. The girls’ game starts at 5:45 p.m., followed by the boys’ at 7:15.

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