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Vikings split two league games

Forest Grove boys still fighting for fourth place after beating McKay and losing to South Salem

Forest Grove’s chances for a top-four finish in the Greater Valley Conference and an automatic state playoff berth are still alive.

The Vikings split their two GVC contests last week, losing 65-53 to league-leading South Salem on Tuesday, but rebounding to beat McKay 61-39 on Friday to remain in fourth place in the standings, half a game ahead of Sprague.NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: KENT FRASURE
 - Forest Grove senior Ronnie Thompson coasts in for a layup ahead of South Salem's Joe Carey during last Tuesday's Greater Valley Conference basketball game.

Forest Grove (14-8, 8-6 GVC) was scheduled to visit Sprague (9-12, 7-6) for a crucial showdown on Tuesday, but results were not available at press deadline.

“It’s a huge game,” Forest Grove head coach Greg Evers said. “If we win, we guarantee at least fourth place. If we lose, they’ll have the tiebreaker on us and we’ll probably have to hope they lose their last two games for us to finish above them.”

The Vikings were hampered last Tuesday by an injury to sophomore guard Kyle Thompson, who left the game in the first quarter and didn’t return. His absence not only took away one of Forest Grove’s top scoring options, it also caused a ripple effect on defense.

“Kyle hurt himself early in the game and that put us in a big deficit,” Evers said. “We had some domino effect issues, moving around guys on defense and trying to figure out new matchups. That hurt us a bunch there.”

South Salem (19-2, 13-0) led by just six points at halftime and the Vikings cut that margin to three points in the third quarter before the Saxons pulled away, collectively shooting 12-for-12 from the free throw line in the fourth.

Bailey Evers led Forest Grove with 19 points, shooting 5-for-14 from 3-point range. Ken Balsiger had 12 points and Taylor Jensen added 12 points and seven rebounds.

Three nights later, Forest Grove buckled down on defense and limited the second-highest scoring team in the state to just 15 points in the first half.

“We were concerned about that game because they played us tough at home,” Greg Evers said of McKay, which came into last Friday’s contest averaging 71.8 points per game. “We went to a 2-2-1 zone press, which we haven’t done all year, and that really slowed them down and forced them to play basketball.

“Offensively we performed pretty well, but mainly it was our defense and the fact that we held them to 15 points in the first half.”

Jensen had one of his typically impressive all-around games, with 16 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks, four steals and three assists.

“He was huge for us in that game,” Evers said. “He did a little bit of everything.”

Balsiger had 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor, and Bailey Evers added 11 points for the Vikings. Thompson returned from his leg injury but battled through illness, scoring five points and dishing out four assists despite being sick in the locker room.

“He was throwing up in a garbage can before the game, but he was able to come back and play,” Greg Evers said. “He was sick over the weekend but he’s back now and that will help us out a lot.”