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Tigers are on another three-game losing streak as the Pacific Conference season wanes

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - NHS junior Paige Krebs (right) fights for the ball in the Tigers' 41-38 loss to Sherwood on Friday evening.

Losers of six of their first seven Pacific Conference contests, the Newberg High School girls basketball team is searching for answers as it approaches its final five contests of the season. After a strong start to the season with a 10-2 record in non-league games – many against lesser opponents – Newberg is now 11-8, 1-6 in the conference.

The Tigers' latest losses were a 72-42 defeat at the hands of Liberty on Feb. 4 and a 41-38 loss to Sherwood on Friday. Newberg coach Luke Lindell said he expected the Liberty game to be a tall order, but the Sherwood loss stings more because it felt like a winnable one for this group.

"Liberty is a top five team in the state and they definitely played like it when they came to our house," he said. "They shot the ball really well and are really versatile, and they've got a couple of good guards. Their front line is big and athletic and that's just a tough matchup for us."GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Senior guard Sicily Hampton drives to the basket in the Tigers loss to the Bowmen Friday evening on the road.

Newberg couldn't keep up with the pace of Liberty in that contest, getting down big at the half before attempting to claw back in it in the third and fourth quarters. The Falcons still won by 30, though, showcasing why they were slotted at No. 4 in the OSAA 6A rankings as of Tuesday morning.

The Sherwood game was expected to be close. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the scales tipped in favor of the Bowmen, who emerged with a three-point victory in front of their home fans.

"We knew Sherwood was a big game for us because we felt like we had a solid chance to win," Lindell said. "We had a slow start and were able to come back, but the ball just didn't bounce our way down the stretch and we committed some costly turnovers. They made enough things happen down the stretch to hold us off and it's a disappointing loss.

"We have the ability to compete with teams, it's just about putting together a full effort. I was proud of the way the kids battled despite being shorthanded. Some kids played more minutes than they were used to and showed some solid development."

Navigating the final few games of the season without a slew of losses will be key for Newberg's playoff chances. While they remain near the bottom of the Pacific Conference standings, their non-league record has buoyed the Tigers to a No. 26 OSAA ranking – good enough for an at-large playoff bid at this point.

The final five contests for the Tigers will be about maintaining that ranking and finishing the regular season with some semblance of momentum. Newberg plays on the road at Forest Grove on Wednesday before hosting Century on Feb. 18. A trio of games against Liberty, Glencoe and rival McMinnville will close out their schedule.

"We've found more ways to lose than to win down the stretch here," Lindell said. "With five games left, I think there's a couple winnable games out there for us. We just have to focus on playing the best game we can for a full 32 minutes.

"Our best scorers need to be consistent every game. That's a lot to ask sometimes, but it's the reality – everyone needs to assume their role and when we get our best scorers putting up points consistently, that's when we're at our best."

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