The Forest Grove girls basketball team never trailed in their game with Sherwood — until it mattered most.
Despite scoring first and leading the Pacific Conference second-place Bowmen for three and a half quarters, the Vikings went cold, Sherwood got to the line, and ultimately, Bowmen freshman post Ava Heiden proved too much for the Viks. The Bowmen captured the game 39-30 Tuesday night, June 15, at Sherwood High School.
Heiden, Sherwood's 6-foot-4 phenom, finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. She contributed on defense as she blocked shots, altered others and deterred Forest Grove basket attacks throughout a second half in which it proved difficult for the road Vikings to score.
"There were some possessions which we played great, poised and controlled; and others, we were frantic and didn't play with great poise," Forest Grove head coach Dan Lumpkin said. "And you know, those turnovers ended up being the difference."
Sherwood head coach Lauren Howard thought her team had played better games, but she spoke glowingly about Heiden's work in an otherwise sporadic effort.
"She's probably the most poised kid that I have, and she's 14," Howard said. "She has a good head for basketball and knows where she needs to be, where to pass the ball, and doesn't let double- and triple-teams affect her."
Forest Grove (5-7) started fast, building a 10-6 lead thanks to six early points from a freshman of their own, Lauren Buchanan.
Sherwood kept things close however, despite a cool early shooting performance, thanks primarily to the 3-point sharp-shooting of senior Hallie Romig.
Vikings junior guard Ally Hammond — along with senior Amanda Rebsom — kept the visitors ahead in the second quarter and helped them to a 18-15 halftime lead with a handful of big rebounds and athletic drives to the hoop.
Lumpkin was pleased with his team's first-half effort. He thought they did a nice job executing the game plan on both sides of the ball, but he was especially satisfied with their work on Heiden, who was held to just five first half points — and had yet to really put her fingerprint on the game.
"I thought we came out with great energy and great intensity on the defensive side," Lumpkin said. "We had a plan and executed that plan very well. They killed us inside last time, and their big girl (Heiden) is phenomenal, but I don't think she scored a single bucket in the paint in that first half, and I thought we did a really nice job of keeping her out of there."
Howard faulted the Bowmen's showing on defense.
"We pride ourselves on our defense, and tonight, we didn't get it done," she said. "Where we get our offensive looks is our energy from our defense, and our defense didn't show up tonight, so it was a struggle."
That was, until the fourth quarter.
Trailing 25-22 after three quarters, the Bowmen tied the game minutes into the final stanza and took their first lead, 29-28, on two Mandie Jensen free throws with a handful of minutes to go. From there, it was all Sherwood. The Vikings went cold from the field, while the Bowmen iced the game at the free throw line thanks to Romig and senior Elise Evans, who combined for five straight from the stripe.
The loss was another in a list of close defeats to quality teams this season for the Viks, but Lumpkin was proud of his young team in defeat and sang the praises of young players like Buchanan, Hammond, Summer Hullinger and Rebsom, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds and was one of just two seniors to set foot on the court for Forest Grove on Tuesday.
"She's taken a lot of pressure on her shoulders, and in a lot of games, she's delivered," Lumpkin said. "I'm so proud of her effort, and she's given us a big lift."
Both coaches spoke to the difficulties this odd and shortened season has presented, but they made no excuses. After all, it's an equal playing field for everybody.
But despite the strain of the year and the limited court time the circumstances allowed — in fact, maybe even because of it — the girls on both sides are having fun playing basketball again, and their coaches are having fun, too.
"We have a really great group of girls, and they make it so much fun, and they show up every single day and get along really well," Howard said. "They've just enjoyed being able to be back playing and have definitely tried to make the best of it."
Despite the loss, Lumpkin said after Tuesday's game that he has been encouraged by his team's growth over just a few weeks of action.
"It's been an interesting season," Lumpkin said with a smile. "Certainly, it's been difficult trying to get the girls up to speed with all of our youth and having not played last summer, but while we struggled early on, we've been starting to play really well, and tonight, I think you saw that for much of the game."
Forest Grove scorers included: Rebsom 11, Hammond 9, Buchanan 8, Everson 2.
Sherwood scorers included: Heiden 13, Romig 13, Evans 6, Mandie Jensen 5, Carleton 1, Bittner 1.
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