After wrapping up its regular season schedule with a trio of losses, the Newberg High School girls basketball team is marching into the playoffs to face Oregon City.
The No. 28 seed Tigers (12-12, 2-10 Pacific Conference) had a rough go of it in their conference season, but have their sights set on pulling the upset over the No. 5 Pioneers (19-6, 10-4 Three Rivers League) on Tuesday evening.
NHS coach Luke Lindell says he liked the matchup for his squad.
"Oregon City is one of the more stories programs in the state," Lindell said. "We are going to have to really play well to hang in, but this is the most favorable matchup for us among the top teams. They don't have a lot of size but are very skilled, so I think we can compete with them better than some of the bigger teams."
Newberg's season ended with a 78-35 loss to No. 4 Liberty along with a 70-42 road defeat at Glencoe and a 40-38 heartbreaker loss to McMinnville. The Tigers struggled with turnovers and a lack of scoring throughout their Pacific Conference campaign and Lindell said their schedule in the non-conference season was admittedly much easier.
The conference schedule, he said, was a necessary bit of preparation for what some of the squads they might face in the postseason would look like. Now the Tigers get a chance to face their biggest test yet in the Pioneers.
"I thought the second time we played Liberty we had a good half, so we have to do that for a full game against Oregon City," Lindell said. "Playing tough teams pays off when you get to the playoffs because you're battle-tested.
"Teams like (Oregon City) can overwhelm you with their aggressiveness, quickness and athleticism. Oregon City thrives on your turnovers and you can't let them do that – especially on the road. We've got to execute against their pressure and make the right pass, get to the free throw line and maintain a strong mindset."
If the Tigers drop Tuesday night's game, it will be the final time in a Newberg uniform for three seniors: Maddy Bell, Sicily Hampton and Karly Fouche. While all three played key roles for Newberg, the majority of its roster will be back next season a year older and with some playoff experience under its belt.
Even though the potential for a win seemed slim at best entering Tuesday's game , Lindell remained positive and said his team was going in with the right mindset. Newberg hasn't shown the state what it's capable of yet, he said, and Tuesday was the chance to do that.
"I don't think we've played our best basketball game yet and I don't think our players do either," Lindell said. "It's just about putting together a full 32-minute game and we have to make sure our focus and discipline is extremely high."
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