Forest Grove melts under McKay's pressure and falls to the Scots 79-67
Too much, too soon.
The Forest Grove boys basketball team, playing without standout point guard Kyle Thompson for the second consecutive game, sprung from the gate, built a lead, then watched it all fall away in a 79-67 home loss to McKay Friday, Dec. 15 at Forest Grove High School.
The Vikings (2-4, 1-2) spent the first 16 minutes building a nine point halftime lead on the back of senior guard Drake Littlefield, who scored 20 of his 36 points in the first two quarters. But without Thompson and the depth to handle the up-tempo style of the visiting Royal Scots (4-1, 2-1), the visitors from Salem used a relentless full-court press to chip-away at Forest Grove's lead, then blew by them when turnovers and fatigue caught up with the shorthanded Vikings.
"Our legs went, and as soon as you turn it over a few times, they've got you," said head coach Greg Evers. "We missed a bunch of point blank shots tonight, and that's the fatigue kicking-in."
Senior guard Israel Garza scored 32 for the Scots, and led McKay's charge with help from a handful of his quick athletic teammates. Garza, and fellow guards Andre Tovar, Khyler Beach, and Drioji Joel combined for 72 of McKay's 79 points, many of which came as a result of unyielding pressure and the lay-ins that came as a result.
"It's tough, and McKay works on that," said Forest Grove's Drake Littlefield. "They've been doing that for a couple years now, and honestly, it's tough without Kyle. We've been practicing that, but it's probably a bit on me because I was rushing it a little out there."
And he wasn't alone. Evers pleaded with his players to slow down, even in the first-half when things appeared to be going the Vikings' way. But Forest Grove continued the frenetic pace, and ultimately paid for it in the end.
"I told them, were scoring points and that's great, but that's what they want you to do," said Evers. "They want you to take the first shot available and play quick. I kept telling them but they didn't adjust until it was too late."
The Vikings led 19-15 after one quarter thanks to 10 Littlefield points and some quality board work by Forest Grove's two posts, Sam Riley and Ayden Purcell, who combined for 22 rebounds between them. Things continued to go their way in the second, as Littlefield continued his torrid pace while McKay struggled to get the ball in the basket. Forest Grove used a series of put backs by their bigs, coupled with two Adison Emerick threes to build a six-point lead, then when Littlefield knocked down his fifth three of the night as time ticked-down, the Vikings had their biggest lead of the game and appeared on their way to a quality conference win.
But. That's when the pressure took hold.
The Scots outscored the Vikings 18-13 in the third quarter, then used an 11-0 run to open the fourth, turning a four point deficit into a seven point lead. Forest Grove had a hard time getting the ball across half-court against the Mckay press, and when they did they often hurried an attempt or missed a point blank shot due to such. Something Littlefield put a bit on himself.
"Some of that's leadership," the senior said. "It's a big difference without Kyle because he's such a good ball handler, but I think we've been handling ourselves pretty well as a team and competing, but it's the little things that are costing us and some of that's on me."
Forest Grove tried mightily to hang-in, staying within eight throughout the final period, but every opportunity was thwarted by either a backcourt turnover or transition mistake that extinguished even the slightest bit of hope that they and their faithful held out.
"A ton of it is not having Kyle in there," Evers said. "He breaks the press for us and if it gets in his hands on a rotation, he knows where to go with the ball. Hopefully this will be a blessing in disguise, and these guys will have a better idea and some familiarity of how to handle a press as we go forward."
The Vikings are scheduled to host a pair of games next week, St. Helens on Dec. 19 and Century Friday, Dec. 22.
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