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Vikings drop another close one

Forest Grove has its upset bid thwarted in a 70-67 setback against Clackamas

Some losses are tougher to take than others.

Last week, the Forest Grove boys basketball team suffered two gut-wrenching losses to two quality opponents, leaving the week as one the Vikings would love to have back.

On Dec. 30 against fifth-ranked Newberg, Forest Grove blew a seven-point lead with 40 seconds to play in a 59-54 loss to the Tigers. Four days later, the team went toe to toe with No. 12 Clackamas before dropping a 70-67 decision.

“We have not been very good all season in end-of-the-quarter situations, trying to get the last shot, things like that,” Forest Grove coach Greg Evers said about his outfit’s bugaboo this season. “We’ve got to get better at that and work on that a ton. We’ve got to gain points on those ends of the quarters. Right now we’re getting beat.”

The Vikings (4-7) had their chances on Saturday against Clackamas (8-2) but ultimately fell short. The final opportunity came on the last shot of the game, when Forest Grove tried to set up Taylor Jensen for a potential game-tying 3-pointer.

The Vikings had trouble setting the initial screen and a Cavs defender briefly tipped the ball away. Jensen did get the shot off but it fell short, sending Forest Grove to its sixth loss in seven games.

“We just came off the screen and they switched it well,” Jensen said of the final play. “The guy popped out and got a tip on it. I got a pretty clean shot. It was pretty deep but I should have got at least some rim on that, give it some chance to go in.”

That ended a game in which the two teams staged an entertaining, nip-and-tuck second half, with neither side leading by more than a few points. Angler Emerick’s putback staked the Vikings to a 65-63 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

But the Cavs’ Markus Golder tied the game on a drive to the basket, and Beau Gunderson knocked down a big 3-pointer with less than two minutes to play to put the visitors up 68-65.

Emerick, who scored a game-high 20 points, made sure the Viks stayed in it by converting two free throws with 1:28 remaining. About a minute later, Ben Godfrey missed a golden opportunity at the rim — which would have put Forest Grove up by a point — and then Elijah Gonzales knocked down two free throws the other way to set up the Vikings’ last possession.

“They’ve got good guard play and they were quicker than us at those positions and caused us some trouble,” Evers noted. “For us to stick around and stay with them, I actually thought we played pretty well, for the most part.”

Indeed, the Vikings were close enough to taste victory. Both Jensen (12 points) and Cam Kemper (10) hit double figures in scoring, along with Emerick. Godfrey added nine points and Bailey Evers had eight.

Clackamas also had three players record double-digit scoring efforts. Gunderson scored 19 before fouling out late in the fourth quarter, while Gonzales notched 18 and Mitchell Fink had 15.

Against former league foe Newberg, Forest Grove held the edge in the waning seconds of regulation, but the Tigers refused to go away, hitting a couple of shots from distance and converting a three-point play before the Vikings got a pair of free throws to go back ahead.

But Evers called what he described as a “stupid play,” opting to throw the ball deep in the final few seconds. As Forest Grove’s players were checking back toward the ball, it got tipped to a Tiger, who then passed it to a teammate for a game-tying layup. With the momentum on its side, Newberg prevailed in overtime.

Forest Grove resumed Greater Valley Conference play on Tuesday with a game against West Albany. Results were not available at press deadline. The Vikings have a bye on Friday. They get another tough test on Jan. 13 when they host one of the league favorites, South Salem, at 6:45 p.m.

Despite the recent difficulties, the team is looking forward to the heart of the season.

“We’re ready to go,” Jensen said. “We’re ready to go get some wins.”


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