Century's zone stymies Forest Grove in 50-47 win
They say defense wins championships.
Well, it may not have been a championship game, but Century's defense certainly did its part in defeating Forest Grove 50-47 Tuesday night, Feb. 8, at Century High School.
Trailing 12-10 after a quarter, the Jaguars switched to a 2-3 zone and stymied the Vikings, holding the visitors to just four second-quarter points en route to a 10-point halftime lead — an advantage Forest Grove would never overcome.
"They got us out of our rhythm a bit," Forest Grove head coach Marc Roche said. "I think it was effective in limiting our opportunity to score inside, and I thought Century did a good job of limiting our offensive rebounds even though they were in the zone."
Century head coach Scott Kellar said that over the years, his teams have played man-to-man defense, but of late, they've worked more on zone in practice, and it certainly paid dividends against Forest Grove.
"Historically, I've not played much zone, but we've been practicing it pretty much daily just to have it in the arsenal," Kellar said. "They got into a nice rhythm offensively, so we just felt we had to change something up. It was risky, because they're a pretty good perimeter shooting team, but it worked nicely tonight."
Roche said they tried a number of different things to crack the zone's code, but in the end, it came down to simply making shots — and they just weren't making them.
"We looked to address it by mixing up our play calls a bit and being more assertive on the offensive end," the Forest Grove coach said. "I thought we were getting some decent looks out there, but shots just weren't falling from the outside tonight."
Offensively, the Jags (12-8, 5-3) were led by guard Jessley Bukeyeneza, who finished with 18 points and three rebounds.
The 6-foot-1 freshman scored in multiple ways, including both in the paint and from behind the arc, but it was his uncanny poise that kept Century for the most part under control, even during the game's tightest moments.
Kellar said he's been impressed with Bukeyeneza all season, but he added that he's grown tremendously over the team's 20 games and is a different player now than he was to start the year.
"He was big for us tonight, and he's really been playing his best basketball the last few weeks," the Century coach said. "He struggled early in the year turning the ball over, but he's taking much better care of it now, and he's not afraid of the stage. I told him he's not really a freshman anymore, he's a seasoned veteran, and he's starting to play like one."
In addition to Bukeyeneza, the Jags got a significant offensive boost from Axton Wongsomadi, who finished with 14 points.
Wongsomadi scored 12 of his points during a second-quarter stretch that included a four-point play as part of the junior's 10 straight points. While Wongsomadi cooled off a bit after that, Kellar said he's as free to shoot as anyone he's ever coached, and his staff is working to make him equally lethal as a more versatile scorer.
"He's got about as green of a light as I've probably ever let a kid have, but we're trying to get him to be more of a combo guard," Kellar said. "If we can get him to continue adding stuff to his game, he's going to be even harder to guard."
Century's 10-point halftime lead became 11 after three quarters, growing to as many as 13 early in the fourth. But there was no quit in the Vikings (7-10, 3-5), who whittled away at the deficit over the game's final few minutes and cut it to four with 18 seconds on the clock, thanks to full-court pressure and the sharpshooting of Ryder Davis and Lucas Ellington.
But in the end, time ran out on Forest Grove and its comeback attempt, leaving Roche disappointed in the outcome, but not his team's effort in defeat.
"I was proud of how our guys battled back at the end," he said. "With some tough situations our team has battled through this season, I'm proud that our guys never quit, and I really appreciate their responsiveness to getting coached up and getting better as we head into the final four league games of the season."
Century — tied with Liberty for second in the Pacific Conference — too is gearing up for the home stretch, and Kellar is enjoying what has been an exciting league season.
"We talked at the start of the year about how the difference between being a playoff team and being seventh in the league is probably about eight possessions," the Century coach said. "It's crazy every night, so we're happy to be in early February and still be in the hunt for stuff."
Century scorers included: Bukeyeneza 18, Wongsomadi 14, Elijah Garcia 10, Andre Huynh 6, Jordan Johnson 2.
Forest Grove scorers included: Ellington 14, Davis 8, Jake Steltenpohl 8, Ka'ena Kaulia 7, Trevor Cannon 6, Kaden Clute 4.
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