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Despite falling into big deficit early, Tigers assert themselves over visiting Jaguars on Tuesday

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Newberg senior Alli Stilp led the Tigers in scoring against Century on Jan. 18.

It was not the start that Newberg wanted against league foe Century, but the team overcame a large first quarter deficit to claim a 55-30 victory on Tuesday.

The win marked Newberg's sixth win in its last seven outings and the Tigers continue to hold the top spot in the Pacific Conference. Newberg improved to 9-5 overall and 2-0 in league play, following a solid 58-53 win over the Liberty Falcons on Jan. 14.

Newberg was slow to get going in the first half, falling behind 16-8 in the first quarter and 20-17 at the end of the half. The start, while not ideal, was still a good lesson for the young players, NHS coach Luke Lindell said. The Tigers started three freshmen against Century.

"For us, we kind of need to see a couple baskets go in and that really kind of started to get the ball rolling for us and we started feeling better about ourselves," he said. "With a young team, I think that's important. Today was really one of the slower starts we've had in a while. But it's good for our girls to fight through that adversity because that's going to happen. In league games we have to make sure that we're staying the course and continue to play the type of basketball that we want to play."

The bucket that started Newberg down the path to victory was a three-pointer from senior guard Alli Stilp midway through the second quarter. The Tigers, trailing 20-11 at that point, rattled off three more buckets in transition to close the deficit to three points after the first two quarters. A big part of that was the team's defense.

"When we can get stops, we can get rebounds, we can get out in transition and run, that allows us to be able to get a little bit more flow into the game," Lindell said. "I thought (Century) didn't allow us to get into the type of flow that we needed and that's on us. We've got to try and create that and we start that on the defensive end of the floor."

Stilp, who finished the game with 19 points and four three-pointers, was one of Newberg's motors throughout the contest. While the senior was scoreless in the first quarter, it was her offense that helped the home team pull ahead later. She, and her team, have bought in to Lindell's defense first philosophy.

"I think we had a really slow start and messy first quarter, but then coming after that we got it together and had a great push and a lot of energy and focus on defense," Stilp said. "That led to offensively a lot of easier buckets for us, which was good. But overall, I think our performance was good and we did what we needed to."

Stilp wasn't the only Tiger to finish with double digit points. Freshman guard Izabella Macris had 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers, as did fellow freshman Lydia Gray, all of which came in the second half.

Stilp, a captain on the team and one of the veteran players, knows the role that she has as a leader: sparkplug on defense and shot creator on offense. The onus is on her, as well as the other veterans of the team, to lead Newberg to the top of a fairly wide-open Pacific Conference. But the expectations don't seem to get to her.PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Newberg freshman Izabella Macris pulls up from beyond the arc against Century on Jan. 18.

"I don't feel weight necessarily, I just feel expectation and I'm ready to just live up to it and lead my team to it," she said. "I know we should be one or two in league and we need to go to every game in league and take care of business."

Early in league play Newberg sits atop the conference at 2-0. Sherwood, though 4-9 overall, is also 2-0 in league play and sits right there with them. Forest Grove is 8-2 overall and ranked in the top 20, but has yet to play a Pacific Conference game.

While Lindell acknowledged that his team has the tools to compete with anyone, he plans on taking it one game at a game.

"My only projections for any team I've ever had is that we're going to compete. Winning and losing, it's a small margin. And we know we have to play well. I think we have a team that can cause people problems because of the way we can shoot the basketball. That can keep you in games and I think when you go on the road and maybe you're playing a more talented team physically. I think that that is a difference maker for us, that we can spread the floor with five players and that is hard to guard."

Newberg will have a chance to put that to the test when they head to McMinnville to face off against the Grizzlies (6-7, 1-1 in league) on Friday).


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