The Vikings defeat Sprague and split Greater Valley Conference championship with McMinnville.

COURTESY PHOTO: VICKI VAN LOO PHOTOGRAPHY - The Forest Grove girls basketball team poses for a photo after claiming their first league title since 2005. Back row (left to right): Assistant Coach Jessica Cox, Audrey Fasching, Kendal Thrush, Delaney Aleshire, Assistant Coach Andrew Garret, Olivia Grosse, Emily Huson, Katie Rebsom, Assistant Coach Duane Anderson, Manager Meagan Mollahan, Coach Dan Lumpkin. Front Row (left to right): Jazzy Murphy, Jen Cool, Amanda Rebsom, Emily Lester, Katie Ellington, Kayleen Domiguez, Ellie Kintz, and Kinsey Barnett
Well done.

The Forest Grove girls basketball team defeated Sprague 45-24 Feb. 22 at Sprague High School, and in the process finished tied atop the Greater Valley Conference standings, sharing the conference title with McMinnville with whom they split two games with this season.

The league championship was just the fifth in school history and the first since 2005.

"It means a lot winning the league," said Forest Grove head coach Dan Lumpkin. "It's not something that's happened a lot. To be a league champion in any sport is a big deal, so it's something to appreciate, take-in and enjoy."

The team celebrated their title with a small ceremony for the kids, their parents, coaches and administrators after practice Friday, in which they cut down the net and posed for photos with their championship banner and trophy.

Coach Lumpkin's pride goes beyond what occurred on the court this season, but also in how the girls worked towards this throughout the preceding years.

"My enjoyment comes from seeing the fruits of their labor," Lumpkin said. "Seeing their work in the offseason, summer leagues, summer camps, everything they've been doing since the fifth grade. That hard work and progression has paid off, and that's awesome."

After a 4-4 nonconference start to the season, the Vikings won their first 10 GVC contests, including a 43-40 win at Mac to kick-off the conference slate. Forest Grove won the game on a last second three-pointer from senior Emily Huson, and it was that momentum that seemed to carry the Vikings into and through the first half of the year.

""That was insane," a smiling Huson said after making the shot versus the Grizzlies. "I honestly didn't think it was going to go in — but I'll take it."

Lumpkin looked at it as redemption from a pair that went against his team last year.

"We were on the wrong end of a couple of those last year," said the coach shortly after the Mac game. "McNary made a half-court shot to take one from us at home last season. This feels a lot better."

The Vikings had a strangle-hold on the league standings until back-to-back losses to McNary and McMinnville Jan. 30 and Feb. 2, put them in a tie with Mac and forced them to win-out to secure a share of the championship.

COURTESY PHOTO: VICKI VAN LOO PHOTOGRAPHY - Forest Grove head coach Dan Lumpkin cuts the remainder of the net from the FGHS gym during a celebratory ceremony Feb. 23 at Forest Grove High.Now it's on to the state playoffs where the Viks will host Sherwood of the Three Rivers League Tuesday night, Feb. 27 (after the News-Times print deadline). Lumpkin said the Bowmen offer a unique challenge because they're a methodical team that like to limit their opponents' opportunities. Because of such, his team will have less possessions, so it will be imperative to make the most of each and every one.

"They're very patient and take care of the ball, so they really grind the pace of the play down," said Lumpkin. "So you're only going to get so many possessions, so it's important you take advantage of every one."

Despite Sherwood's adverse approach, the coach is excited about his team's chances against them.

"They will propose some challenges, but I think It's a good match up and the girls will go out, compete and will give us every opportunity to win," he said.

And how do the girls feel about their league title, along with their postseason opportunity?

"I think our seniors appreciate it because they're seniors," Lumpkin said. "They understand that this was their last chance to leave a mark and get how rare this has been."

One of those seniors, Kinsey Barnett, may have said it best.

"From the wise words of Ricky Bobby, 'if you ain't first, you're last,'" she said.

I guess that means they should keep winning.

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