The tragic news of former NBA star Kobe Bryant's death on Sunday sent an emotional ripple around the country, particularly for those associated with the game of basketball. Kobe's 13-year-old daughter Gianna – a budding basketball star in her own rite – was among the eight others killed in the crash and the legacy Bryant and his daughter left behind is striking a chord with the girls basketball team at Newberg High School.
Coach Luke Lindell said he spoke to the team about the tragedy on Monday and they had an emotional, honest discussion about what Kobe meant to the game – as well as his advocacy for the women's game after his own career was over.
"There are no words that can really express the shock factor and sorrow that comes with a tremendous loss," Lindell said. "We talked about how you honor someone like Kobe and that's in the effort level you give and the appreciation for the game. That's what he symbolized – the work ethic and passion for the game."
In the previous two weeks, the Tigers (10-5, 0-3) opened their league schedule with losses to Century, Forest Grove and Sherwood – a challenging start to Pacific Conference play for a team that went 10-2 in non-league. They lost by eight to Century, 19 to Forest Grove and seven to Sherwood – all games where scoring was often a struggle.
"It really comes down to matchups," Lindell said. "Century had a lot of physical size that hurt us and we had a lead that we squandered. We didn't do what we needed to do with defense and rebounding in that one.
"Forest Grove, it was tied at half and we had a four-minute stretch where we couldn't score. It was difficult to overcome that we scored just five points in the second half. The Sherwood game was virtually the same thing. We know we're better than that and we have to learn from this."
Newberg's depth and scoring ability is being tested in the early part of its conference slate and Lindell said it has to improve if the team is going to bounce back and pick up some victories. The focus in their upcoming contests will be to match opponents' physicality and avoid scoring droughts whenever possible.
"What we're finding is we go through four- to six-minute stretches of basketball games where we just don't score," Lindell said. "That's difficult to overcome and we have to limit those times where teams go on those runs. We're making adjustments to be a bit more fresh in the second half.
"It's going to be about how physical we can be in these games. If we can find ways to consistently score we'll be okay. It's going to be a tough pair of basketball games and we're hoping to get back on track here."
Newberg faced Glencoe on Tuesday night after press time and looks ahead to a game at McMinnville on Friday. Lindell said the Tigers hope to slow down the Grizzlies' star player in Kylee Arzner while picking up the offensive production that has been lacking for them.
The focus, ultimately, will be about getting back on track and climbing the Pacific Conference standings.
"I don't think for us it's about winning a league title," Lindell said. "We want to win a few more games and assure ourselves a playoff spot. The focus is more on that than anything else for this program. Our league is tough and we have to step up and play a complete game."
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