FOREST GROVE — Forest Grove sophomore Braden Hudgins suffered a minor brain cramp in the dying seconds of his team's wild Friday night boys basketball game against feisty Gresham, but recovered seconds later to gift-wrap a Viking victory.
The 6-foot-5 wing, whose two critical baskets earlier in the game helped bring the Vikings back from certain doom, hit a third one with 1.5 seconds left, then added a free throw on the foul as Forest Grove survived for a 47-43 win over the Gophers in the second game of its holiday tournament.
To set the scene, Gopher guard Daello Portin-Chapman sliced in for a layup that tied the game at 43-43 with 1:15 to go. The Vikings couldn’t find a decent opening in Gresham’s matchup zone — the story of their whole night — but instead of calling a timeout, they ran the clock down and ran a play on the fly. They had just installed it in Thursday’s practice.
“We ran a play designed for me on the back door,” Hudgins said. “I was supposed to come up to Guy (Littlefield) and fake, then go back door, but I was a little late on it.”
Then the Gopher defender wisely sagged back to clog the key. Now the chaos theory had taken over and Forest Grove just had to make something up.
The ball swung out to the left side, so Hudgins headed out to an open spot a good 25 feet from the basket and took the pass while he was already in his spin motion.
Gresham’s Isaac Clinton was flying right at him, but Hudgins caught the pass cleanly, spun and fired all in one continuum. Clinton crashed into him just before the ball went through and knocked him flat on his wallet right in front of his own bench.
Hudgins made the free throw with the crowd going wild and his teammates jumping up and down for joy.
“It was a shot (as opposed to a throw),” he said. “It was a quick turnaround shot. I caught it, turned and shot. I usually have confidence that those are going in.”
The best part, though, was when he looked up and saw the reaction.
“That was awesome,” he said. “The bench was screaming and everybody’s yelling. I’ve been struggling, so this felt good.”
It wasn’t a pretty win by any means. The Vikings fell behind 33-24 midway through the third quarter and didn’t look as if they would be able to crack Gresham’s trapping zone defense enough to make it back into the game. Just about everything they got up to that point came courtesy of Littlefield, their gifted junior point guard.
Then Forest Grove’s defense arrived and the Gophers went cold. The Vikings went on a 13-3 tear to end the third quarter, and when Hudgins hit the second of two NBA-length three-pointers, they had a 37-36 lead at the end of the period.
The victory kept Forest Grove undefeated at 7-0 which, considering the difficulties the Vikings had with injuries last year, is a mighty achievement. The Vikings won seven games all of last year and finished 7-17.
They’re realistic about the start of this season, too. They’ve played teams that are in similar building modes; the records of their seven victims add up to only 13-31.
“The road’s going to get tougher when we get into conference,” Vikings coach Greg Evers said. “And we’re going to have to get better offensively.
“But we’ve been playing a lot of good defense. We’re doing it not with athleticism, but with good quality defensive concepts. I’m extremely impressed with where we are right now.
“We’ve got to take better care of the ball. That’s a concern of ours. We just have too many turnovers. But we do have some guys who can shoot the ball.”
Evers also has some athletes who can adjust when they have to.
“We went to last year’s offense all during the second half,” he said. “It’s a 1-3-1, and what’s good about that is that we haven’t worked on it at all this year.”
Littlefield finished with 20 points to lead the Vikings. Hudgins’ four-point play gave him 10 for the night.
Eric Puclic hit three clean three-pointers of his own and led the Gophers (3-3) with 15 points. Ethan Abrahamson, whose second-half free throws gave his team a fighting chance, added 14.