NHS girls on win streak; boys start new chapter
Newberg girls basketball is on a five-game win streak after an inconsistent start to the season, entering the league portion of its schedule with newfound confidence and progressing maturity.
The Tigers (7-4 overall) beat Sunset 44-25 on the road Dec. 21 before rattling off three wins in a row in the Century/Hillsboro Tournament Dec. 27-29, beating Reynolds 51-25, Madison 51-37 and Sandy 47-40. Newberg's most recent victory as of Tuesday afternoon was a 75-29 thrashing of Sprague Jan. 4.
"Offensively, we've been a little bit more efficient and our turnovers are coming down," NHS coach Luke Lindell said. "We have some athleticism and the ability to turn teams over, and defensively we've done well and held teams to some low point totals."
In the game against Madison, Newberg got off to a solid start before ballooning its lead in the second half thanks to some quality defense up and down the lineup. Against Sandy, a slow start resulted in a closer game than the Tigers wanted, but they ultimately finished it out.
The Sprague game was simply Newberg taking care of business against an inferior team. Lindell said his team's focus in games against lesser opponents has been evident and it continues to improve its play against teams of equal or greater talent.
"It's a relatively young group with so many of them new to varsity basketball," Lindell said. "You're starting to see them get a bit more comfortable and find that confidence as we progress in our season. The talent is there; the question is if we can match up to teams physically."
Lindell said it's time for the Tigers to "put their money where their mouth is" now that league play is underway. Newberg played Century in its league opener Tuesday night after press time, and its final non-league game of the season is Friday at Aloha. The Tigers beat the Warriors 82-18 on Dec. 7.
"Our depth is continuing to develop and we're getting more kids more confidence," Lindell said. "I don't know how that is going to translate into league, but we're going to face some tough teams. I think we'll have a chance in every game we play."
The Newberg boys team didn't envision such a slow start. At 5-7 on the season, the Tigers sat at No. 33 in the OSAA 6A rankings as of Tuesday afternoon.
A senior-laden group is finally starting to get healthy. Injuries – particularly to its most potent scorers – stymied Newberg's rhythm early in the season, leading to losses that coach Mark Brown's team wishes it had back.
But according to Brown, it's a new season and his players are embracing that idea as they aim to realize their potential.
"It'd be easy for us to get down on ourselves right now," Brown said. "Five and seven is not the start we wanted, but our mindset going into league play is that we're 0-0. We had to battle through some injuries these first 12 games, but we can't have any excuses. It's a new season."
Before its league opener against Century (5-7) on Tuesday night, the Tigers dropped a road game at Sprague on Dec. 28, 67-62, before being thumped by a talented Southridge team 70-44 on Jan. 4.
The Sprague game was the second of a back-to-back losses for Newberg following a narrow victory over Clackamas on Dec. 27. Brown said defensive execution down the stretch led to the tough loss.
"We got off to a slow start and dug ourselves a hole early," he said. "Starting the third quarter we were down double digits and (then) our offense got hot. We cut it down to one point a couple times, but we weren't able to get stops in the last few minutes."
A loss to Southridge was not a shock. The Skyhawks have one of the best players in the state in senior Brock Henry, and their home court proved to be a hostile environment. Getting stops in the second half was a challenge after a relatively even start, Brown said, and his team looks ahead to league play with an eye on improving its defense.
"I'm proud of our effort to fight back and overcome some adversity," Brown said. "We've just got to be able to get stops when it counts down the stretch."
Next up for the Tigers is a home game against Forest Grove (10-2) on Jan. 15 before they travel on the road to face Sherwood (9-4).
At the Northwest Duals tournament in Albany, Newberg wrestling sat out many of its key contributors. The Tigers picked up a number of dual meet wins in the tournament, but also took a handful of losses – their first of the season.
The Tigers look ahead to a home dual meet with Glencoe on Thursday before hosting the Earl Gillis Invitational on Friday. Mid-January brings a dual meet at McMinnville Jan. 16 before traveling to Redmond for the Oregon Classic tournament Jan. 18-19.