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Boys basketball team looking for strong Pacific Conference season and a return to the playoffs.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Mark Brown will lead the Newberg Tigers for the 11th year as head coach.

Under normal circumstances, high school basketball teams enjoy a season that begins in December and, if they're lucky to play in the post-season, extends into March of the following year. Given the advent of a worldwide pandemic, however, times are anything but normal for high school sports.

Newberg High School's boys basketball team saw its fall-winter 2020-21 season shortened and delayed until the spring. The Tigers were successful, winning most of their games, and head coach Mark Brown is confident the team can continue that success as it returns to a regular schedule beginning this week.

"I do not think that the delayed 2020 season will have any impact on this season," he said in an email Nov. 27. "We are excited to compete and are thankful for the opportunity to play, and the players have worked hard to put themselves in a position to be competitive this season."

Brown is optimistic that the 2021-22 team will pick up where its predecessors left off.PMG FILE PHOTO - Senior guard Sol Byles is the Tigers' sole returning starter from the spring season's team.

"We are confident that we will be competitive right away, even after graduating many seniors who were a big part of our success last season," Brown said. "We have several players returning who have varsity experience and they have worked hard in the off season to prepare themselves to be ready to compete at the highest level coming into this season."

Practices began Nov. 15, the veteran of 11 years coaching at NHS said.

"Practice is going great. Our guys are coming in every single day and competing the best they can. It's been a lot of fun to be in the gym the past two weeks."

While senior guard Sol Byles is the Tigers' sole returning starter, Brown pointed to a number of other players who logged "significant varsity minutes" last season and are expected to contribute. Included are senior posts Sam Murphy and John Delay, senior wings Christian Buck and Drew Sellke and senior guard Cody Burger.

Brown pointed to players new to the varsity that could contribute right away.

"Two players who are new to varsity this year who look to make an immediate impact are (senior wing) Max Davidson and (sophomore guard) Malachi Muthiah," he said. "Both have worked incredibly hard this off season and are ready to contribute right away."

Brown's strategy to best utilize the strengths his young charges will be familiar to anyone who has witnessed his teams in the past.

"We will be a team that is capable of playing fast and shooting the ball well," he said. "We will look to push the pace of play and keep pressure on our opponents on both ends of the court all game long."

Brown said the consensus in the hoops community is that Sherwood will be the program to beat in the Pacific Conference this season, as it was in the spring season. He's not so sure.

"I think that this will be an incredibly competitive league season and there will be multiple teams fighting for the three automatic playoff spots," he said. "We will definitely be in the mix to be at the top of the conference."

The Tigers begin play at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3, versus Aloha as part of the Bill Gabel Invitational in the main gymnasium at Tualatin High School. If they lose they will play again at 2 p.m. Saturday; should they win, they will play at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Brown said the team also head scrimmages on Nov. 25 "to let the parents get a first look at our teams."

The Tigers' first home game is set for Dec. 17 against Reynolds. Its first Pacific Conference game is slated for Jan. 1 at Liberty High School.

A past season to build on

The Tigers are coming off a successful season held last spring due to COVID-19 restrictions. Newberg finished 11-6 overall, including a 10-2 Pacific Conference record, with their only losses coming by a combined five points to Sherwood in their two matchups with the Bowmen.

NHS completed its conference season with a thrilling two-point win over Yamhill County rival McMinnville, then competed in a three-game tournament at Milwaukie High School. The Tigers lost 63-28 to Jesuit on June 22, beat Cleveland 50-49 the following day and fell by three points to Barlow on June 24.

Completion of the shortened season saw the departure of seven seniors, including Vaibhav Brooks, Colin Bolek, Corban Muthiah, Carter Stone, Caleb Jackson, Jordan Shinneman and Spencer Lanier.

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