Revived offense carries Tigers past Lakers
For a still developing squad, each mistake, each failure and each game are an opportunity to learn and become more resilient.
So when the Newberg boys basketball team floundered offensively in a disappointing 64-45 home loss to Sherwood last week, coach Mark Brown said he was eager to see how his team would react.
The third-year coach was pleased then to see the Tigers have their best offensive performance of the season two days later in a 63-59 road win at Lakeridge Friday evening.
"We talked about needing that next play, meaning not to forget what happened," Brown said. "We look at it, we learn from it, we move on and become better from it. I thought that's what we did Friday night."
A major area of focus for Newberg this year has been energy and effort, but it wasn't there in the first quarter Jan. 17, as the visiting Bowmen raced to a 14-2 lead in the opening six minutes.
"It was definitely not the start we wanted," Brown said. "That sort of set the tone for the whole night."
The Tigers did settle in late in the first quarter and played Sherwood even the rest of the first half to enter the locker room down 34-21. While Newberg began to get some shots to fall, it proved too hard to cut into the lead because the Bowmen shot an astounding 20 free throws in the first half, making 15.
Even if Newberg had gotten hot in the second half, it would have been nearly impossible to match Sherwood's performance, especially in the third quarter. The Bowmen went four-for-four on three-pointers in the first 3:03 of the period, eventually hitting their first six attempts from beyond the arc and finishing six-for-seven for the quarter to go up 56-33.
Jack Chlumak and Alex Jaczko did have solid nights, finishing with 14 points apiece, and Ben O'Loughlin added nine points, but it was a disappointing evening.
"First and foremost credit to them, way to shoot the ball," Brown said. "That's tough to beat a team when they hit 11 three-pointers. We've got to do a better job of keeping guys away from the rim and we can't let a team shoot 20 free throws in a half. We were even with them in the first half even with those free throws. They just out executed, played a better game."
Things swung completely in the other direction Friday night, as the Tigers scored 18 points in the first quarter to take a two-point lead over the Pacers.
Newberg added 20 more in the second quarter and with a better defensive effort, enjoyed a 38-28 halftime lead.
The Tigers cooled off a bit in the third, but did not falter completely in being held to 11 points, as Lakeridge cut the deficit to six.
"There have been several games where we've hit the wall a couple times and had a three or four-minute dry spell," Brown said. "We really didn't have that Friday night. We were pretty rhythmic and kept a good flow of scoring all night."
The Pacers got as close as two points, but Newberg built the advantage back up enough to force Lakeridge to foul in the final minutes.
"Down the stretch we executed really well," Brown said. "We made free throws when we needed them, as they were kind of in foul mode. We had guys stepping up and we were able to seal it that way."
Newberg does not feature one dominant scorer and that balance was on display Friday night as three players scored in double figures and two more score eight to lift the team to a season-high point total.
The breakout that night came from Jacob Willcuts, who had missed some time recently due to knee soreness before scoring a game-high 18 points.
"When you have that type of team, different guys are going to step up different nights and Friday night Jacob was huge for us," Brown said. "That was his first start back after the knee injury. We still tried to watch his minutes, but it was hard to take him off the floor. He made four or five threes as part of his 18 points and was just really solid handling the ball."
Newberg (8-8, 2-4 Three Rivers League) is nearly halfway through the conference schedule, with West Linn set to visit Thursday night. Despite a few rough spots, Brown said he believes his team is poised for a strong stretch run, especially with six of eight games coming at home.
"I think we can all be confident going into the second half of league that every night is going to be a winnable night," Brown said. "As long as we show up to compete with our energy and our effort, and mentally lock in with the couple of adjustments we need to make, we're not a team to write off. I think this team has a lot of fight left in them."