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Forest Grove boys basketball blow by West Salem in fourth quarter to stay undefeated

Vikings improve to 4-0 overall with 69-57 win against Titans

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove's Ben Godfrey tries to slip a pass around Isaiah Pineda of West Salem during the Vikings 69-57 home win on Friday night.The great start continues for the Forest Grove boys basketball team.

Buoyed by a 30-point night from Taylor Jensen, the Vikings moved to 4-0 overall and kicked off league play Friday night with a 69-57 win at home against West Salem.

The final score looked comfortable, but for Forest Grove head coach Greg Evers, it was a nervy evening, at least.

“They played us tougher than heck. They had me worried the whole flippin’ night,” Evers said. “I thought they were very good tonight defensively. They made key baskets. I thought our defense was a notch below theirs. I thought they showed us what good defense looks like, defending screens and defending everything, for that matter. I thought they did a good job.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Taylor Jensen (3) hits a layup while being fouled by West Salem's Jordan Lind with a few seconds to go in the first half of Forest Groves 69-57 win on Friday evening. Jensen hit the ensuing free throw to give the Vikings a 37-31 halftime lead.“We just happened to have, I think, a couple more offensive kids that exploit you offensively in a little bit more ways than maybe they did.”

In a contest that was tightly played most of the way, Forest Grove finally found some breathing room when it built a nine-point lead in the third quarter, only to watch the Titans cut it back to two at the start of the fourth.

A year ago, that might have rattled the Vikings, who lost a number of close games in the fourth quarter in 2014-15. But in this one, they outscored West Salem 20-10 the rest of the way, with Jensen going on a 14-point barrage in the final stanza.

“We just kept on grinding and grinding the whole time, and we just stayed consistent,” Jensen said. “We didn’t get down when they were battling us tough, because that’s not a bad team. They played us very tough.”

With it still so early in the season and several players stepping into bigger roles, the Vikings (4-0, 1-0) are still sorting themselves out, which makes the solid start all the more impressive. Already, junior guard Bailey Evers pointed out, the team has half as many wins as it posted all of last winter.

Forest Grove took its largest lead of the night to that point on an Alex Funk drive midway through the third quarter, which gave the home team a 48-39 lead. But the Titans (1-3, 0-1) went on an 8-1 run over the next four-plus minutes, capped by a 3-pointer from Josh Bailey a minute into the fourth to make it 49-47.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove sophomore Kyle Thompson (11) is all smiles at the start of a fourth-quarter timeout during a 69-57 victory over West Salem on Friday. The Vikings outscored the Titans 20-13 in the period to pull away. €‹A close finish never materialized, though, in large part thanks to Jensen. Ben Godfrey started the closing run when he came through for the game’s next two scores and then Jensen nailed a 3-pointer to push the margin back to nine at 56-47. After a bucket by Bailey, Jensen then exploded for nine straight points and a 65-49 Viking lead with less than two minutes to go. From there, the hosts went 4-of-5 from the free throw line to win comfortably.

While Jensen put up the biggest numbers, he gave his teammates a lot of the credit.

“My teammates put me in great spots,” he noted. “The offense, it just flows well. It’s not anything really run for one person a lot, it just flows through and then some people have good nights.”

And it was hardly a one-man show. Evers scored 14 points, including a couple of deep 3-pointers, and Funk showed his versatility, hitting from both inside and outside to add 13 points. Kyle Thompson and Godfrey chipped in six each.

“On any given night, anybody can go for 20 in our system, and it’s hard to guard, our spread offense,” Evers. “Taylor’s been doing a great job with it.”

Above all, the Vikings, who led 16-14 after one quarter and 37-31 at the half, played solid team basketball. They made good decisions, shared the ball and found the right player at the right time. With a number of solid ball-handlers on the squad this season, they also took care of the ball in the fourth quarter to help chew up clock.

“Our ball-handling, you can see with Taylor, Bailey and Kyle — and Ronnie (Thompson) played point last year for the JV — so there’s four guys right there that are point guards, that really are point guards,” Greg Evers said. “they’re confident with the ball.”

Bailey led West Salem — which Evers said was missing a couple players due to disciplinary reasons – with 21 points. Hunter Johnson scored 12 and Jonathan Terleski also was in double figures with 10.

The win sets up a big week for Forest Grove, which hosts rival McMinnville on Tuesday before traveling to McNary next Friday. The Celtics defeated West Albany 58-40 in their conference opener Friday and also moved to 4-0. West Salem plays at South Salem before entertaining North Salem next week.