SHERWOOD — Sherwood lit a stick of dynamite at both ends in the third quarter Friday night, and the resulting explosion blew the Pacific Conference boys basketball race to bits.
The Bowmen hit visiting Forest Grove with a 19-3 third quarter, then stomped on the accelerator in the fourth to finish off the reeling Vikings 56-40 and all but clinch the conference race. They’re 8-1 in league, and only the Vikings (6-3), resurgent Newberg (5-3) and Century (5-3) can catch them.
That would take some kind of miracle with just three games left. It pretty much ended Friday night. The Bowmen get home games against Liberty and last-place Glencoe and a roadie at Century to finish the season, and would have to lose two of them for for anybody else to have a chance to tie them.
If they play the way they did in the second half against Forest Grove, that can’t happen. Sherwood turned defensive tiger in the third period to shut down the Vikings’ two biggest scoring threats, junior point guard Guy Littlefield and sophomore wing Braden Hudgins.
On the offensive end, the Bowmen inserted their best archer, senior wing and designated hitter Ryan Sandilands. He popped a three-ball from the right side another from the top of the key to fuel a 16-1 eruption in the last 3:49 of the third quarter that blew the Vikings away.
At that point, it was hard to remember that Forest Grove led 24-21 at the half.
But it all started on the defensive end. The Bowmen packed the key with its big people — 6-6 Blake Jensen and 6-5 Braden Thorn -- and harassed Littlefield from the moment he arrived on the court for the second half.
That’s significant. Littlefield makes the Vikings go, and he scored 61 points in his last two games.
“He’s their engine,” Sherwood coach Rahim Tufts said. “He scores and he finds their open guys. I really, really like his game.”
But Littlefield likes to drive and dish, and there was just no room to do it against Sherwood.
“We just stayed on their shooters hip, which we didn’t do a great job of in the first half,” Tufts said. “We had to keep Guy out of the paint, go under screens and keep their shooters from shooting.”
Bowman point guard Jamison Guerra, who is to the Bowmen what Littlefield is to Forest Grove, explained it further.
“It was all about the defensive end in the second half,” he said. “One of our goals was to hold Littlefield under 10, and I think we held him to 9 (correct). It was just a matter of not leaving their shooters open. We stayed right on them all the time, occasionally threw some junk at them — zone defenses to catch them off guard.”
That settled, the Bowmen needed to solve the Vikings’ defense, which was backing farther and farther back to stop Jensen, who was destroying them from in close.
“My job is to facilitate the ball, get guys open, then drive in and kick it out,” Sandilands said. “I usually come in looking for the three ball. Tonight was a good night when I hit most of my shots.
“Jamison was getting locked up by two guys and I was open. I just watch the ball and find the open spots.”
It made all the difference, Tufts said.
“All year long he’s been phenomenal,” the coach said, “with his attitude, his effort and his defense. But he was due to get hot for one of these games. He’s not afraid of the moment, either.
“And our guys do a good job of finding the open man and making the extra pass.”
It was almost scary to watch. The Vikings edged out to their halftime lead when Littlefield got three drivers from in close in the last 1:53 of the second quarter, and had the game moving along at their pace.
The only problem they had was Jensen, a genuine low post who is hard to shove out of the key. The big guy got eight first-half points and Guerra had seven, but with nobody else hurting Forest Grove, things were working the way the Vikings wanted it.
That ended in the third quarter.
“Our paint offense is just insane,” acknowledged Guerra. “And it opened things up for our three-point shooters.”
One of them was Guerra himself, who finished the third period with a three-ball with five seconds left to make it 40-26. The only things Littlefield got in the period were bruises from driving into the key.
Sandilands started a 13-point fourth-period run that got the lead all the way out to 56-34 with his last three-pointer.
He finished with nine points, while Guerra had 17 and Jensen 15. Hudgins, who had three three-pointers, led the Vikings with 11 points.