Forced to play back-to-back games, NHS sees its season end in loss at West Albany

ALBANY -- The Newberg boys basketball team's path to the 6A state playoffs got a lot harder last week and, ultimately, it proved to be too much to overcome.

The Tigers, like many in the state, had their final regular season game on Feb. 20 postponed due to inclement weather.

When the OSAA announced the state playoff field Feb. 22, No. 34 Newberg was matched up with West Albany in a play-in contest scheduled for Saturday.

The OSAA, though, also ruled that games postponed from earlier in the week, like the Tigers' road contest at West Linn, had to be played in order to more accurately rank teams, especially higher seeds, for the final 32-team playoff bracket.

The Tigers played well in a 64-55 loss at No. 7 West Linn Friday night and went back-and-forth versus West Albany the next night, but the Bulldogs pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 64-57 victory.

Newberg was not sharp defensively in the early going and fell behind 14-2, but rallied in the second quarter, at one point taking the lead 26-25. The Bulldogs, though, answered back, closing the half on a 9-2 run to pull ahead 34-28 at the break.

Neither team got on track in the third quarter, as each scored just eight points, but West Albany was aggressive in getting to the hoop and took advantage of the Tigers' tired legs to get them in foul trouble in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs went on to hit 17-of-21 free throws in the period to protect their lead and eliminate Newberg.

"We were tired, not as quick, not as active as we have been defensively and that also led to some poor offensive possessions," NHS coach Mark Brown said. "We played an awesome game Friday night and just didn't have energy to finish the game on Saturday."

Alex Jaczko paced the team with 22 points, with Jack Chlumak adding 10 and Ben O'Loughlin nine.

Brown said he could have opted to sit his primary players versus West Linn in order to keep them fresh for Saturday, but felt that would be disingenuous. In the end, West Linn's ranking did not change after its victory.

"I was told by people … to not play my starters and not play full speed and I just told them I'm never going to coach that way," Brown said. "That's not high school basketball. That's not who I want to be as a coach."

Despite the sour finish, the Tigers (11-14) did make significant strides in 2017-2018 under the leadership of seniors like O'Loughlin and Jacob Willcuts, and will return a strong core, led by Jaczko and Chlumak, next winter.

"I'm super proud of this team," Brown said. "Saturday night they showed what they've showed for the last few years, they didn't go down without a fight."

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