Forest Grove survives an off night for a 69-61 non-league victory
It must've been something in the water. Like the girls' game before it, the Viking boys almost pulled defeat from the jaws of victory Friday night, Dec. 1, at Forest Grove High School.
After building a comfortable 11-point fourth quarter lead, the Vikings allowed the Newberg Tigers to pull within three in the final minutes before ultimately icing the game and getting their first win of the season 69-61.
The Vikings were led by junior wing Adison Emerick who scored 15 points and grabbed a handful of rebounds, leading a contingent of reserves that finished with 40 of the Vikings 69 points. Senior Noah Duve added 14 for the Viks, while standout point guard Kyle Thompson tallied 11 on a night that the senior simply didn't have it.
"It wasn't a great game," said Thompson. "We didn't make free throws and our starting five didn't have their best, so other guys had to step up and they did."
Emerick credited Thompson for the bench's effort, despite the senior's struggles.
"I think we were all excited to play and it showed," said Emerick. "Kyle just does a really good job of getting us all the ball in places we can succeed from."
Newberg's charge was led by junior wing Alex Jaczko, who scored 20 points for the Tigers and headlined a fourth quarter rally that included 13 straight points. It was enough to get the visitors within striking distance, but not enough to put them over the top.
"We had a nice run in the fourth thanks to Alex (Jaczko) and we gave ourselves a shot, but we have to find a way to play that way early on," said Newberg head coach Mark Brown. "Alex is a young guy without a ton of varsity of experience, but we have high hopes for him and he's been stepping up for us on and off the court."
The game was close for most of the first half, with Newberg jumping out to an early edge before Forest Grove seized their first lead at the end of the first quarter. The Vikings got eight straight from Emerick to start the second, then opened up their biggest lead of the first half when — after Thompson left with an ankle injury — they closed with an 8-2 run to take a 34-29 lead to the break.
Thompson returned in the second half, but on this night it wasn't about him, but rather the Viks' suffocating defense which allowed them to widen the gap in the third, and get a couple huge offensive rebounds to keep possessions alive — something head coach Greg Evers is trying to instill in his team in the absence of the type of offensive firepower Forest Grove has been used to in years past.
"One of the things were trying to do is, if we cant score like we did last year, we have to get those points back on the defensive end," said Evers. "We can do that by playing sound defense and crashing the offensive boards. And we're getting better."
Whether due to the Vikings' defensive effort or a lack of offensive production on Newberg's end, the Tigers ultimately lost the game during the third quarter stretch, which Brown attributed partially to Forest Grove and partially to his team's mistakes.
"I think we played well in stretches, but we can't send a team to the line 40 times and expect to win, nor can we put ourselves in a 17-point hole," said Brown. "Credit to Forest Grove and credit to Kyle Thompson — he battled through an ankle injury and we thought if he went out we had a chance because everything goes through him.
"But he's such a tough kid and he proved it tonight and we had a lot of focus on him and it left guys open, and they made the shots."
Evers was proud of his players, but added they're definitely a work in progress. With a handful of inexperienced varsity contributors entering the mix this season, the coach is tasked with finding productive lineups on the fly.
"I'm still trying to figure us out," Evers said. "We're playing a lot of guys trying to find good rotations. The returning guys I know, but I'm still trying to get a feel for the new guys' strengths and weaknesses."
So a win is a win, but Thompson knows they'll have to play better in games to come if they're going to be competitive in the always tough GVC. Yet the win over Newberg was good enough.
"It wasn't a great game and there could have been some first home game jitters, but I think it was just an off game," Thompson said. "We'll bounce back."
Forest Grove is now set to play three consecutive road games starting Dec. 5 at Cleveland, traveling to McMinnville for their league opener Dec. 8 and then heading to South Salem for a game against the Saxons Dec. 12.