The Vikings struggle to score and fall victim to a 17-point second half Celtic run in third consecutive GVC loss

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Ayden Purcell goes up for a rebound during the Vikings game versus McNary Jan. 2 at Forest Grove High School.Some nights you're the windshield, and some nights you're unfortunately the bug.

The Forest Grove boys basketball team, a few days removed from three straight tournament games in Medford, returned to the court Jan. 2 for a home game against a formidable McNary team. Sadly for the Vikings — a bit too formidable.

After a slow start, the Celtics took control in the second half and pushed past a lethargic and seemingly uninspired Forest Grove squad, defeating the home Vikings 62-44.

"It looked like we played all last week," said a noticeably frustrated Forest Grove head coach Greg Evers. "Yesterday's practice, I had to send them all out in the hall and tell them to gather themselves and come back in with a little better attitude. It had the makings of a bad night, and it was."

McNary — who didn't appear on top of their game for much of the contest either — turned a five point third quarter game into a blowout as a result of a 17-0 run fueled by the hot hands of forwards Ricardo Gardelli and Chandler Cavell. The two combined for 35 points on the night, including 12 of the 17 during the game-changing stretch midway through the second half.

"We wanted to make sure Cavell and (Lucas) Garvey didn't do work on us, so we were going to live with Gardelli and he ended up hitting a few shots on us," said Evers. "Up into that point I thought we did a pretty good job on them. Cavell got in foul trouble early and they had to keep him out for the rest of the first half, but we didn't capitalize and he got his in the second."

The Vikings were led by standout point guard Kyle Thompson, who finished with 22 points, including 11 of the team's 17 in the first half. Forest Grove struggled to get open shots and when they got something close to the rim, failed to capitalize, missing a handful of point blank opportunities.

"We simply weren't playing good," Evers said.

NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Kyle Thompson surveys the McNary defense during the Vikings game versus the Celtics Jan. 2 at Forest Grove High School.
Cavell got things started for McNary, hitting a three to start the game and bookending the opening quarter with a second trey to give the Celtics a 13-6 first quarter lead. The Vikings stayed within reach for most of the second quarter with timely — yet hard-fought — buckets from Thompson and junior post Ayden Purcell, who accounted for all of the home team's 17 first half points. But an inability to create open looks coupled with a losing battle on the boards limited Viking opportunities and forced them to press, which kept them in the game — for a while.

"We wanted to press, but we wanted to keep everything in front of us," Evers said. "We did that in the first half and I think it kept us in it, because offensively we were terrible and very limited."

The Vikings showed life in the third quarter, closing the gap midway through with buckets from Thompson, Guy Littlefield, and 6-foot wing Noah Duve, whose runner in the lane pulled the Viks to within 35-30. But Cavell hit a three to make it 38-30, then netted a midrange jumper followed by a couple free throws, and when Gardelli scored to end the quarter McNary led by 14 and the writing was on the wall.

"It's hard to win if you can't score," said Evers.

Due to a season-long shooting slump, Evers experimented with a pressing, more up-tempo style at last week's Abby's Holiday Classic in Medford and it netted positive results. But against a bigger and more athletic team like McNary, the coach hesitated to play too fast for fear of negative consequences.

"We always want to run, but when we're not rebounding and against that team, it's not a great idea," Evers said. "The last two games we pressed a lot and rotated well, but I didn't want to do that tonight because this team would bloody our nose in transition. They've got good enough ball handlers and good enough finishers in transition that it could've gotten ugly."

And ultimately it did.

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