The Newberg girls basketball team has begun its 2021-22 campaign with the determination to build on last year's successes.
"Practices started a few weeks ago and have been going well," eighth-year coach Luke Lindell said in an email. "There is a lot of competition in our program this year with a big senior class and some talented freshman. We are really focusing on trying to take it one practice at a time and focus on getting everything installed and growing together as a group."
The Tigers are coming off a COVID-shortened spring season that saw them amass a 5-7 Pacific Conference record (6-8 overall), good for a tie for fifth place in league play. Five seniors graduated from coach Luke Lindell's team: Lexie Morace, Leah Chadwick, Ashley Kosmicki, Alina Garstka and Paige Krebs.
The only returning starter from last season's squad is Alli Stilp, a senior guard named to the league's second team.
Lindell is unfazed by the team's lack of varsity experience and said he has been impressed with a quintet of players in particular
"Moira Turpen, 5-foot-2 sophomore -- great athlete, played some varsity last season. Has really started to blossom. Iz Macris, 5-foot-8 freshman -- really talented guard who will have an immediate impact for us on both sides of the ball. Scarlet Ramos -- 5-foot-9 senior. Did not play last season during the COVID season. Long and lengthy. Plays hard and can shoot the ball. Lydia Gray -- 5-foot-10 freshman. Lengthy wing who will have an impact on both sides of the basketball for us. Helmi Landwehr -- 5-foot-8 freshman. Really can shoot the ball and plays extremely hard on the defensive end."
Lindell said practices so far have indicated that the Tigers will be unique when time comes to compete.
"This team over most that I have coached is fairly 'position-less,'" he said. "We have ability to really get in transition and look for early offense. Our perimeter shooting will only get better and we have players to spread the floor and make it hard on the opponent's defense. We will be able to have some depth, which will allow us to play more pressure defense than we have in the past. It really is a different group of players than we have had in the past few seasons and I look forward to watching them compete."
Due to the pandemic, the Tigers played fewer games in the spring than they normally would.
"I am just glad our players got to have a season," Lindell said. "We are starting over in a lot of ways with a new system and lot of new faces. We are thankful for the opportunity to play and our players are hungry to get to play someone other than ourselves."
Lindell expects Sherwood to be the class of the Pacific Conference. "They have a 6-foot-4 sophomore post, Ava Heiden, who is a dominant force, and they have some really talented guards around her," he said, adding that expects Forest Grove to be a "team to watch for."
The Tigers will kick off their season playing at the Laker Interstate Shootout on the weekend before Christmas and the PIL Holiday Invite after Christmas, Lindell said, adding "Both tournaments will be a good measuring stick for where we are at and getting the opportunity to play three games in three nights presents challenges to any team."
Ultimately, the Tigers' goal is all about improvement from week to week.
"Our goal is to get better each practice and each game," Lindell said. "We will learn a lot about ourselves in the preseason. We want to be playing our best basketball in the middle of January. With such a young and inexperienced team, each opportunity to practice or play will present a great opportunity to learn. I always expect our teams to compete at a high level and this season will be no exception."
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