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The Tigers lose their first two games before bouncing back to pick up a close win

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - A fast-paced style of play has yielded mixed results for the Newberg boys basketball team thus far.

In the early stages of a new season, a basketball team isn't expected to be in full form right from the get-go – especially one with so many personnel and stylistic changes like the Newberg boys team. The Tigers showcased that truth in their first trio of games, dropping the first two before picking up a narrow victory to start the season 1-2.

Newberg lost 51-43 to Sheldon on Dec. 4 before an 81-57 drubbing by Tigard on Friday. Rebounding from those losses, the Tigers beat Southridge 64-61 on Saturday in the second game of the Bill Gabel Invitational at Tigard High School.

"We're doing a lot of learning," NHS coach Mark Brown said. "We knew adjusting to a new style of play would bring some growing pains, so we just have to figure out who we are and what our identity is going to be. We're rough at times, but we've shown growth and development in each game."

Brown said the effort in all three of Newberg's games has been strong, but a lack of execution led to the team's defeat in its two losses to open the season. He said much can be learned about his team's resolve from the Southridge win, which came over a Metro League school with a history of quality teams.

"Down the stretch, we played with a lot of poise," Brown said. "You really find out who you are in close games like that. A blowout win or loss isn't really a great indicator of where you're at and we came from behind at the end to finish them off."

Hanging on to a one-point lead over the Skyhawks with less than five seconds remaining, Newberg headed to the free throw line with a chance to extend its advantage. Senior Zach Macris – who finished with 11 points for the Tigers, including three crucial three-pointers – hit both free throws to give his team a three-point lead and force a missed triple at the buzzer by Southridge.

Senior Jake Gaunt led the way in the win with 14 points. Brown also lauded the effort of junior Vaibhav Brooks, who he said is coming off the bench averaging greater than 10 points per game and shooting the ball "extremely well" so far.

"Our scoring is pretty spread out – it's pretty even," Brown said. "Different guys step up on different nights for us and that's good to see."

Newberg played on the road at Oregon City after press time on Tuesday and looks ahead to a road game at Sunset on Friday. Prior to those contests, Brown emphasized the importance of playing a tough non-league schedule – even if it results in a few tough losses.

"Going on the road and facing those teams is going to be tough, but we're ready for the challenge," Brown said. "I'd rather play a tougher preseason to prepare us for league rather than an easy schedule that doesn't prepare us for the long stretch. We definitely have a tough preseason, but I like how it will help us grow as a team."

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