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The Bowmen's energy and defensive intensity proved too much for the visiting Vikings.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Sherwood senior Laney Snelling battles for a basket during the Bowmen's game against Forest Grove Friday night, Feb. 18, at Sherwood High School. With first place and ultimately a league title on the line, the Sherwood girls basketball team was up to the challenge.

Behind the inspired play of senior Mandie Jensen, heightened intensity and a swarming defense, the first place Bowmen defeated the Vikings 48-36 and in the process clinched the Pacific Conference championship Friday night, Feb. 18, at Sherwood High School.

"We just played hard," Sherwood head coach Lauren Howard said. "We got on them early and just had a lot of energy, and we truly believe that when we play with that kind of energy and keep it throughout the game, we can play with any team."

Jensen agreed with her coach and spoke to the team's energy, execution and will as keys to the victory.

"We started how we wanted and did everything we practiced, and when we weren't in the right spots we just made it happen with hustle," the senior said. "We just wanted it more than them."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Ally Hammond tries to drive around Sherwood's Laney Snelling during the Vikings game against the Bowmen Friday night, Feb. 18, at Sherwood High School.Forest Grove wanted it as well. Trailing by just a game in the standings, the Vikings entered the contest with an opportunity to create a first-place tie with just two regular season games remaining. But despite head coach Dan Lumpkin believing his team was ready to play, he also thought they may have been a little overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment.

"I think the girls were ready to go, I just think their nerves got the best of them," the Forest Grove coach said. "Once they started building that lead, you could tell we started getting a little bit anxious and things just kind of snow-balled from there."

The game was close for the bulk of the opening stanza before consecutive three-point plays by Jensen and Mckenna Rump put the home Bowmen ahead 15-8 after a quarter. From there, it was all Sherwood, who scored 16 of the second quarter's first 18 points with help from Rump, Ava Heiden, Paige Bittner, Jaclyn Barritt, Sabrina Flowers and Keeley McCaulley who all scored points, contributing to a 33-12 Sherwood lead at the half.

Howard said she attributed that scoring equity and overall efficiency to the team's patience—something they didn't have much of the last time these two teams squared-off.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Sherwood's Mandie Jensen scans the defense during the Bowmen's game against Forest Grove Friday night, Feb. 18, at Sherwood High School. Jensen led the game with 16 points."They were really successful with their zone the first time we played them," Howard said. "So, we wanted to be sure to slow down and play with composure, and that allowed us to get really good shots."

Jensen pointed more towards their defense when pinpointing their offensive success, citing the connection between the effort on one end directly correlating with that same success on the other.

"Defense is what we've focused on all year," Jensen said. "Our offense flows from our defense, and if our defense is good, then our offense will come with it."

Lumpkin too pointed to defense as a primary deciding factor of the game, but said it was a tale of two halves for his Vikings who seemed to settle down a bit over the game's final 10 minutes.

"When you hold a team like that to just 15 second half points, that's good, but giving up 33 points in the first half, that's not good," Lumpkin said. "But I was proud that the girls didn't just pack it in, they bounced back."

Forest Grove trailed 44-21 after three quarters, but rallied late to nearly cut the deficit to single-digits behind Lily Everson and sophomore Emma Emerson who combined for 23 points. Lumpkin said the game was a learning experience for his girls, and added that it—despite the defeat—will be helpful to them heading into the postseason.

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Forest Grove's Lily Everson eyes a hoop during the Vikings game against the Bowmen Friday night, Feb. 18, at Sherwood High School."It's a big step to go from a team that can compete for a league title, to actually being a league champion," Lumpkin said. "It goes beyond whether we're skilled or talented enough, there's a mindset you need and if you don't have it, it doesn't matter how good you are.

"This is the kind of game we need right now," Lumpkin said. "Obviously we'd rather have won, but this is the kind of energy we're going to see in the playoffs so this is going to help us be ready for that first round."

Howard was impressed with her team's overall effort against the Vikings and spoke to not only the importance of that energy, but also the ability and need to sustain it as the playoffs approach.

"I think by simply believing and knowing what we're capable of," Howard said. "We have a great bench and everyone knows that when it's their turn on the floor they need to match that same energy that's been out there. Even if just one person doesn't bring it, it can affect the whole team and we're not going to be as successful."

PMG PHOTO: WADE EVANSON - Sherwood's Paige Bittner takes a jump shot during the Bowmen's game against Forest Grove Friday night, Feb. 18, at Sherwood High School. But they were certainly successful on this night, and throughout the league season as they sewed-up the league title they've been aiming for since the start of the year.

"At the beginning of the year we all wrote down our goals and every single one of us put down a league title," Jensen said. "We knew we wanted it, so we kept each other accountable, our coach kept us accountable, and we made it a reality. It feels amazing."

Sherwood scorers included: Jensen 16, Heiden 11, Rump 8, Bittner 4, Flowers 3, Laney Snelling 2, McCaulley 2.Barritt 2.

Forest Grove scorers included: Everson 15, Emerson 8, Kai Ingram 5, Myle Vernon 2, Ally Hammond 2, Summer Hullinger 2, Grace Burke 2.

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