Class 6A girls basketball — Underclassmen play key roles as the Tigers rally to beat Grant 58-55 and Woodburn 46-44

Instilling a never quit attitude has been a priority for Newberg girls basketball head coach Tamie Woginrich this winter and if last week was any indication, the message is sinking in.

The Tigers proved as much against Grant and Woodburn, rallying in the second half both games to beat the Generals 58-55 Dec. 17 and the Bulldogs 46-44 Friday, both in McGrath SETH GORDON - Driving force -- Sophomore Natalie Peterson launches a jump shot during Newberg's 46-44 win over Woodburn on Friday. Peterson was aggressive in getting to the basket against the Bulldogs, converting a key three-point play in the fourth quarter.

And while Woginrich’s ticker is probably a little worse for the wear, Newberg is not only 4-1 on the young season, but seems to be discovering new depth with each performance, as its underclassmen are not only showing they are ready to contribute at the varsity level, but are thriving on the big stage.

The Tigers and Generals seemed to alternate strong and weak quarters throughout the game, with Newberg outscoring Grant 15-9 in the second quarter to take a 29-28 halftime lead.

The Generals then held the hosts to nine third-quarter points to take a 41-38 lead. The Tigers fell behind by eight midway through the quarter, but showed the kind of calm demeanor and perseverance Woginrich prizes, fighting back to tie the game 55-55 with less than a minute to play on a bucket by sophomore guard Sabrina Salmons.

At 5-foot-4, freshman Taylor Rarick point guard was the smallest player on the court, but rebounded a missed three-pointer, then deftly dished the ball to junior post Tori Eichten for the game winning basket. After Newberg stopped Grant on the other end, Rarick sank one of two free throws with 1.4 seconds to seal the win.

“She is a cool customer,” Woginrich said of Rarick.

Eichten led the team with 15 points, with senior Hannah Green adding 13 and Salmons 10. Both Rarick and sophomore forward Christina Bryan, who has proven to be one of the team’s best rebounders, passed out five assists apiece.

Newberg battled from behind the entire first half Friday versus Woodburn, but never panicked despite amassing just 18 first-half points as the Bulldogs enjoyed a seven-point lead at halftime.

This time around it was Salmons’ turn to shine, as the offense warmed up around her seven third quarter points, helping to cut the deficit to three at 33-30 entering the fourth.

The Tigers had just about a perfect start to the final period, getting a bucket inside from Eichten, followed by a Salmons three-pointer and jump shot to make it 37-33 in less than two minutes.

Rarick added a triple shortly after, but the Bulldogs refused to go quietly, taking a 41-40 lead with 3:58 to play on a Kylie Doman basket. Salmons responded with another bucket 14 seconds later to give Newberg a lead it would not relinquish even as the game tightened up down the stretch.

Green sank a jumper two minutes later to make it 44-41 and the Tigers continued to get stops on the defensive end of the floor. Then, showing a great maturity for a lineup that featured one freshman, two sophomores, one junior and one senior, Newberg drained about 35 seconds off the clock on its next possession before Salmons sank another shot, the last two of her 16 points, to make it 46-41 with 55 seconds remaining.

Woodburn shot five free throws in its next two possessions, making three. A bad Tigers turnover gave them a shot to tie the game with 19.3 seconds to go. The Bulldogs managed a good inside look, but the shot didn’t fall. Led by Rarick, Newberg then ran out the rest of the clock by playing keep away with the ball.

They’re starting to figure some things out,” Woginrich said. “That wasn’t the greatest execution, but it worked."

Salmons scored all of her team-high 16 points in the second half, with senior point guard Hannah Hetzler finishing with 12, which just underscored the strength of the underclassmen’s performance in the second half. Hetzler played her best basketball of the season in the first half, carrying the team with 10 points, but with four fouls and Rarick directing a suddenly dynamic and effective offense, couldn’t get back on the floor in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers are now off to Florida for a winter break tournament Friday through Monday before hosting West Salem Jan. 3.

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