The Tigers work their way through a difficult stretch of three games against solid foes

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Despite a blowout loss to Sherwood on Friday, the Tigers' boys team finished a tough portion of its league schedule at 2-1. Coach Mark Brown is hoping the team can improve its offensive output and limit turnovers in future games.

After winning four of its final five non-conference games, the Newberg High School boys basketball team got off to a positive start in Pacific Conference play with a trio of games. The Tigers (8-7, 2-1 Pacific Conference) opened their league schedule with a pair of victories -- 61-55 over Century and 53-50 over Forest Grove, before losing to Sherwood 65-45 on Friday.

The Bowmen were a tough matchup, but NHS coach Mark Brown is pleased with how his team played in the last two weeks despite the blowout loss.

"Coming into league play, we knew we had three of our toughest games right off the bat," Brown said. "Everyone expected these teams to be among the top ones in our league and to come out of this stretch 2-1 feels really good; 3-0 would feel better, but we're happy with how we've grown."

Newberg fought from behind to beat Century in the league-opening game on Jan. 14, battling back from down 10 to force overtime. The Tigers outscored the Jaguars 10-4 in the extra period to seal the victory in front of their home fans.

Brown said the resilience his team showed to get back into a game like that is a testament to their character, but is also a result of the breakneck style of play that they've become accustomed to. Newberg controlled the pace in the final portion of the game and it resulted in a key victory.

The Forest Grove game on Jan. 21 was back-and-forth throughout, but the Tigers held on down the stretch for the narrow win. That set up a matchup with the Bowmen on Friday, which Brown said he knew would be an uphill battle.

"We just ran into a tough team," Brown said. "They have some really good players, including Jamison Guerra, the returning player of the year in the conference, and Blake Jenson, who is going to OIT with Guerra next year. The two of them are an amazing combo."

Brown said the Tigers did what they needed to do to limit Sherwood's outside shooting, but that wasn't enough to stop its high-powered offense. The Bowmen hit triple digits in a previous game this season and boast a litany of versatile scorers, making them a favorite to capture the league title.

Still, Sherwood made just two three-pointers against Newberg, which Brown considers a small victory in a disappointing defeat. Where the Tigers could definitely improve, he said, is their offensive execution and limiting of turnovers.

Junior Spencer Lanier and senior Zach Macris have been standing out with quality play over the past few weeks, Brown said. The Tigers are still scoring by committee and sharing the load offensively, but the duo of Macris and Lanier has been a particularly bright spot.

With finals week underway and players balancing the challenges of academics with athletics in even more strenuous ways than usual, Brown said maintaining focus will be key as Newberg plays its two scheduled games this week. The first was Tuesday night against Glencoe after press time; the second is on Friday at rival McMinnville.

Brown expected both of those games to be competitive despite the two teams' lackluster overall records.

"A lot of people might look at this week's schedule and think this is our easiest stretch of games," Brown said. "That's definitely not our mindset. While Glencoe and McMinnville don't have the best records, Glencoe is playing way better than last year and McMinnville is a big rivalry matchup. We have to be locked in and ready to go for both of these teams."

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