The Vikings fourth quarter rally falls short in home loss to league rival Grizzlies

STAFF PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Drake Littlefield goes up for a lay-in during the Vikings' game against McMinnville Feb. 2 at FGHS.It's been a long, rough ride for the Forest Grove boys basketball team this season. After losing five straight and seven of their last eight since standout point guard Kyle Thompson was lost to injury, the Vikings had a chance to turn the tide against league rival McMinnville and make a little lemonade from a season that for the most part has been lemons.

It didn't happen.

The Vikings played for the most part a good game against the Grizzlies, staying within striking distance for much of the first half, then erasing a 14-point third quarter deficit to close within four with inside of five minutes remaining. But a questionable call, a series of missed shots and a lot of Mac free throws ended their run and breathed further life into a losing stretch that seemingly won't come to an end.

"All the games since Kyle (Thompson) went out we've had really good stretches, but we seem to have one bad run a game and it seems to cost us," said Forest Grove head coach Greg Evers. "When it goes bad, it goes bad in a hurry."

McMinnville got 24 points and 10 rebounds from senior forward Aaron Baune, and 16 points from junior wing Parker Spence in their 69-56 win over the Vikings, including five three-pointers. And while Baune was a force in the paint, it was from behind the arc that the Grizzlies did the bulk of their damage, making 11 of their 18 attempts from distance.

"Their three-point efficiency was really good," said Evers. "It's tough to beat a good team when they're shooting at that type of clip."

The Grizzlies hit four threes in the first quarter, and if not for Forest Grove senior Noah Duve who scored seven of the Vikings' 10 first quarter points, the game may have been over before it really go going.

Mac grew the lead to eight to start the second, but Forest Grove's Ayden Purcell brought the Vikings back with a series of baskets, including a deep three as part of a rally that pulled them within three near the end of the second quarter. The Grizzlies however responded consecutive threes to close the quarter and took a 31-24 lead to the half.

The visitors quickly stretched that lead to 12 to open the third, but the Vikings' Adison Emmerick and Guy Littlefield scored eight straight points to get Forest Grove back within four, before back-to-back Spence threes coupled with a Baune free throw to end the quarter left the Viks trailing 45-34 heading to the fourth quarter.

"Those little runs to end both the second and third quarters were killers," Evers said.

However, not dead yet, the Vikings refused to quit. After falling behind by 14 when Baune hit a three to kick-off the final stanza, Drake Littlefield scored in the lane and Emmerick scored five straight to get back within 10. Then following a Purcell put-back, Emmerick hit the mark on consecutive three-point attempts and Forest Grove trailed by just four, 53-49 with just inside of five minutes remaining.

Then came likely the play of the game.

After a stop gave the Vikings the ball trailing by just four. Duve was called for a highly questionable traveling violation on a jab-step from the perimeter. Mac subsequently took the ball, Spence hit a three while Duve was simultaneously called for a foul under the basket, sending Baune to the line to finish what would be a four-point-play, give the Grizzlies an eight point lead and essentially end the Vikings' hope of an upset.

"Overall I thought we played well in stretches tonight," said Evers. "They bothered us a bit with their 1-3-1 zone, but turnovers weren't a big problem for us tonight. We just gave them too many free looks and they did a good job of knocking them down."

Mac attempted 35 free throws on the night, making 26.

Emmerick led Forest Grove scorers with 16, while Purcell had 13 and Duve and Guy Littlefield added 9 apiece.

The Vikings are scheduled to host North Salem Feb. 6 and will travel to West Salem to play the Titans Feb. 9.

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