Grizzlies get their groove back
What a difference three days makes.
Audrey McMillan scored a season-high 22 points and the McMinnville girls basketball team outscored Forest Grove 36-23 in the second half as the Grizzlies recorded their first Class 6A Pacific Conference victory of the season over the Vikings, 57-46, Friday night at The Furnace.
Senior guard Emily Bliven scored 14 points for Mac (4-10, 1-4 Pacific), and senior guard Molly Olsen added 12 points in one of the team’s most complete offensive performances of the season.
“We needed that,” Grizzlies coach Sean Coste said. “We’re a good team. We’ve had some tough losses against really talented groups. The girls needed to believe that they could beat one of the better teams.”
Olsen, Bliven and McMillan combined to score eight of the Grizzlies’ 12 points in a 52-12 loss to Tigard on Jan. 21. McMinnville turned the ball over 32 times and made four field goals against the Tigers.
That loss appears to have been the season’s nadir. Against Forest Grove (8-7, 1-4), the Grizzlies shot 73.3 percent from the field in the second half (11-of-15) and 45.0 percent from the field (18-of-40) for the game. After attempting eight free throws against Tigard, McMinnville attempted 26 free throws against the Vikings, making 19.
Passes were more crisp. Cuts to the basket were more purposeful. And the Grizzlies looked to dictate play on their side of the court, resulting in their highest point total against a Class 6A team this season.
“The times we did attack, the dribble was stronger,” Coste said. “The girls had really good (ball) movement. They broke down the defense by looking into the middle.”
Forest Grove senior Kaitlin Jamieson, a 6-foot-2 post, led the Vikings with 19 points, with 14 coming in the first half. Jamieson also anchored a defense that held the Grizzlies scoreless for 5 minutes, 20 seconds in the first half in building a 23-21 halftime lead. Coste shuffled his lineup to prevent offensive stagnation, even allowing freshman forward Sydni Dix to see first-half action for the first time this season. (Dix scored one point.)
Forest Grove got an early jump in the third quarter thanks to McKenzie Long. The shortest player on the floor at 5-foot-2, the freshman guard recorded steals on three straight McMinnville possessions to give the Vikings a 29-23 lead.
The Grizzlies cut the lead to one, then watched it inch back up to four after McMillan fouled Jamieson on a made basket and Jamieson sank the free throw. That’s when Molly Olsen changed the Grizzlies’ fortunes.
Olsen hit a three-pointer with 3:10 remaining in the third to get Mac back within one point. Bliven stole Forest Grove’s inbounds pass and found Olsen underneath the basket, where she made a layup while being fouled.
Olsen made the free throw, and McMinnville never again trailed.
“Any time you can get some points where you put pressure on the other team,” Coste said, “now they’ve got to respond.”
The Grizzlies clamped down on the Vikings in the fourth quarter, allowing three points in 5:36 while McMillan took over. The junior scored nine of her 22 points in the quarter (5-of-7 on free throws) to put Forest Grove away.
“Audrey had a really tough task,” Coste said. “She’s very aggressive. She was poised in the middle for us. She got square (on her shots) and took her time.”
McMinnville hosts Glencoe at 6:45 p.m. tonight before traveling to Newberg Friday night for a 5:45 p.m. contest.