PORTLAND — Newberg ran into a buzz saw Tuesday evening in its first round playoff matchup with Grant. The Generals are the defending 6A champions and boast one of the most talented rosters in the state. That talent was on full display throughout a 95-61 drubbing of the Tigers.
After the game, Newberg coach Mark Brown emerged from the locker room and reflected on his team's season, in which it went 13-12 and 8-4 in the Pacific Conference.
"This is such an amazing group," he said. "What makes it hard is not losing a basketball game, but saying goodbye to four seniors and to this group. That's the last time we'll be in a locker room together as a group and that's sad."
Playing in a hostile environment on the road, No. 27-seed Newberg knew that No. 6 Grant would pose a challenge and bring a stark contrast in style of play. Senior guard Aaron Deloney — one of the best players in the state — finished with 44 points and torched the Tigers all night.
Deloney's teammates were unrelenting in pursuit of a blowout victory.
Senior Ty Rankin got to the basket at will and utilized his length and athletic ability in Grant's three-quarter-court pressure, which forced the Tigers to commit dozens of turnovers that led to easy buckets for the Generals.
"Aaron Deloney and Ty Rankin are both phenomenal players," Brown said. "They have a really good supporting cast as well. They had some guys step up and hit shots that we weren't quite expecting – and that's the product of a really good team."
Coming into the game, Brown said his team needed to control the pace in order to have a chance to win. From the outset, though, Grant forced the issue and kept the game at its preferred pace: Fast.
Deloney hit pull-up three-pointers in transition from NBA range, heaved the ball up court to teammates on the fast break and made no-look passes in half-court sets that dizzied Newberg defenders. Grant was plainly the more athletic and talented team, and that showed in possession after possession.
"Deloney does such a good job of – even when you collapse down hard on him – he's able to make the right pass and find the open guy," Brown said. "When he gets even a little bit frustrated, he says, 'OK, it's my turn,' and starts hitting 25-footers. He's a special player."
The first quarter was relatively competitive because the Tigers were hitting their outside shots. NHS junior guard Jack Chlumak and hulking senior post Kyle Kruse both hit open opportunities from three-point land within the prism of Newberg's half-court offense, cutting the margin to two at one point.
But Deloney and Rankin blew the game open by getting in passing lanes and cashing in on fast break opportunities. The second quarter was 22-8 in favor of the Generals, leading to a halftime advantage of 44-23.
Grant's dominance bled into the third quarter as it tightened its grip on the game and took a 70-35 lead into the fourth. Deloney scored 19 of his 44 in the third and filled up the stat sheet regardless of what Newberg threw at him.
After that, the Tigers were playing for pride and they ended up winning the fourth quarter 26-25 after Grant emptied its bench. Senior Alex Jaczko finished with a team-high 20 points, while Chlumak put up 18, including a trio of three-pointers.
Newberg graduates four seniors: Jaczko, Kruse, Caleb Muthiah and Mitchell Allison. Two of them – Jackzo and Muthiah – will graduate with honors, Brown said.
"They have done such a good job of setting a standard of excellence," Brown said. "And it's not just in how they play the game – they're good young men who lead by example on the court and off the court."
Brown anticipates a "hungry" Newberg team next season led by Chlumak and other returners. The success of the junior varsity team gives him optimism that the players making the jump to varsity will be ready to play right away.
"We've got a great group of young guys coming back, including some that had some quality experience on varsity this year," Brown said. "I think we'll have a great mix of 10 to 12 guys who compete and push each other to get better. The offseason and the work they put in is up to them now."