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Vikings change their tempo

Forest Grove plans to slow things down on defense this season


Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: AMANDA MILES - Forest Grove senior Angler Emerick posts up Aloha's Trey Hornbuckle during the Viking's nonleague basketball season opener last Wednesday. Some of the faces on this year’s Forest Grove boys basketball team are familiar, but the squad should still present a bit of a new look this season.

“I think we’re going to be a much longer, bigger team,” Vikings coach Greg Evers said.

With that size will come a bit of a different playing style. Evers said the plan this year is to set up in the half court on defense rather than press as much, but to still work the tempo on offense, though perhaps not to the same extent as in recent seasons.

The Vikings executed those plans to mixed results in their season opener at Aloha last Wednesday. After taking a lead into halftime, the team went cold against the Warriors in the second half, scoring just 18 points in a 63-50 loss.

“I think the defensive mentality has spilled over to our offense a little bit, and we’re needing to speed that up,” Evers noted.

The team did right the ship two days later, posting a 62-58 win against Milwaukie in its home opener.

And while Forest Grove is figuring out how to adjust after graduating six seniors in the spring, it’s not like the Vikings lack quality pieces.

Perhaps chief among them, Taylor Jensen returns to the Viking backcourt after making the first team Pacific Conference all-star squad as only a sophomore. The 6-foot-5 point guard was tops on the team last year in total points, assists and steals, among other categories.

Angler Emerick also figures to play a key role in the success of this year’s group. Though he did not earn an all-league nod last year, the 6-2 post was a force in the paint for the Vikings. Andrew O’Donnell (6-6) and Ben Godfrey (6-6) also figure to be sizeable factors in the post.

Late last week, Evers was also looking forward to the return of seniors Mason Childers (6-2) and Cam Kemper (6-2), both of whom sat out the opener with injuries. They should bolster the team’s depth, as should Taylor Hitchcock (5-10 guard), Ken Balsiger (6-2 wing), Devin Jones (6-2 wing/post), Tobias King (5-11 post) and Bailey Evers (5-11 guard/wing).

“That other team was kind of together for a while,” Evers said of last year’s squad. “This one has got some key pieces that are new. It’s going to take a little time for it to jell.”

This year’s schedule is a bit of an interesting one, given the Vikings’ move into the nine-team Greater Valley Conference. Forest Grove was slated to play former league rival Hillsboro on Tuesday (results not available at press deadline), but now it jumps into a spell of three GVC contests before continuing its nonleague slate through early January.

The team kicks off GVC play on Friday at West Salem — one of the teams Evers believes should contend in the conference this winter — and its GVC home opener is scheduled for Dec. 19 against McNary, another team the coach pegged to finish in the top three, along with South Salem.

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