After a difficult finish last season that saw the team lose 10 consecutive games, Newberg girls basketball is hitting the reset button and relying on experience when it hits the hardwood this winter.
The Tigers were 9-15 last year, including a 1-11 record in the Pacific Conference.
"We return quite a bit back from last year," NHS coach Luke Lindell said. "Last year I thought we were pretty heavy with sophomores, juniors and freshmen, and I thought we were competitive in league despite only winning one league game.
"A lot of those losses were two- and three-possession games that I thought we had a chance in."
Newberg's roster is comprised of three seniors, four juniors and five sophomores. The Tigers are still relatively young compared to other teams in the state, but nearly all of their primary contributors from last season are returning to the team.
Senior guard Sicily Hampton, who led the Tigers in scoring last year, hopes to improve her output this year and continue to lead the team vocally and through her play. Junior Ashley Kosmicki's sharpshooting from outside and the distributing talents of junior point guard Lexi Morace will be key as well, with the starting lineup rounded out by senior Karly Fouche and sophomore Alli Stilp.
"We have a lot of returning experience and that's a big deal," Lindell said. "We're working on trying to build depth and trust with people coming off the bench and our starting five will be as competitive as anyone else's.
"Our physicality last year wasn't where it needs to be to compete with the upper echelon of our league. That's something that's going to get better because we're emphasizing it more, but also because we're physically more mature. You generally have more success with juniors and seniors and our team looks like that now."
Improving on the team's physicality and rebounding – along with consistency on the defensive end – will be the major keys for Lindell and company this season as they aim to improve.
He said the offensive output should be there on a nightly basis given the shooters and playmakers on the roster, and finding a way to consistently rebound will be vital.
While Newberg's roster is experienced, it isn't particularly tall. The Tigers' tallest player is junior Paige Krebs, listed at 5 feet, 10 inches. No player in Newberg's projected starting lineup is above 5-foot-8.
Lindell said the team has flexibility with where it can play its many guards, but it will have to be physical in order to make up for a lack of size.
"We just weren't consistent with our physicality and rebounding last season, and I think you have to be if you want to win basketball games," he said. "I think offensively, we're talented enough to score with some of the best teams, but we have to limit teams to one shot and not give up second chances. Ultimately, being physical and rebounding is where we need to be at our best."
The Tigers open their season at 7:15 p.m. Dec. 6 with a road game at Wilson. Its home opener is at 5 p.m. Dec. 7 against North Medford.
On Dec. 13 and 14. Newberg will play host to Aloha and Sunset for their home tournament, the first of two tourneys on tap for the Tigers this season.
A non-conference schedule that pits Newberg against some of the tougher teams in state, some of which coming in tournament play, should prove to be a challenge.
The Pacific Conference will be no easier, too, as Lindell noted that many of the teams from the Tigers' league are returning key contributors as well. The full schedule for Newberg along with all the other winter sports teams in the state is available on www.OSAA.org. For school- and team-specific schedules, go to the schools drop down and click "member schools" for an alphabetical list of teams.
Lindell said the Tigers are looking forward to making improvements on last year's record.
"We want to turn the corner here and become more mentally tough," Lindell said. "When we grasp that and buy into that, I think we will see ourselves winning some of these tight games that we lost last year.
"We have a tough schedule that will test us early and prepare us for league play."
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