Underdog Lady Cubs claim 3rd place at state

FOREST GROVE - The Newport High Lady Cubs became the Cinderella team at the Class 4A girls basketball state tournament, defying the odds last week to bring home a third-place trophy for a second straight year.

The OSAA/OnPoint Community Credit Union Girls Basketball Championship was held Mar. 7-9 at Forest Grove High School.

Newport, ranked No. 12 in a tournament of champions, won 52-40 over the No. 6 ranked Oregon West Conference Champion Philomath Warriors Saturday to earn the prestigious distinction as the third best team in Oregon.

"I'm extremely proud of our team, but in all honesty, I would've been proud of them even if we didn't make it to the tournament," said interim coach Mike Wagner, who took over the job temporarily as Cubs co-head coach along with Kurt Hargett on Feb. 12.

Newport earned a 6-2 record under their late-season intervention, including 2-1 at the state tournament. The Lady Cubs finished the 2018-19 year with a 19-9 overall history.

Prior to the eight-team state tournament, a third-place scenario seemed unlikely. Newport came into the Elite Eight event as the lowest-ranked team and faced the highly regarded No. 4 North Marion Huskies (22-6) in its opening contest. Who could've imagined that a Cubs team that finished third in the Oregon West Conference would even have a chance?

Considering the dramatic late-season coaching change, the stage was set for a truly a magical and inspirational performance by the Cubs.

Thursday, March 7

NEWPORT 50, N. Marion 33

In the opening quarterfinals Newport simply steamrolled No. 4 North Marion, leading from start-to-finish for a 50-33 win that was widely seen as a second straight upset victory in the state playoffs by the underdog Cubs. Newport earlier qualified for the state tournament following a 37-31 road win over the No. 5-ranked Hidden Valley Mustangs on March 2.

“We had a pretty good game plan and the girls executed it perfectly,” said Wagner. "We played very unselfish basketball, smarter and with a little more confidence. We were No. 12, but we didn't care what the rankings were and felt confident we would win. The girls came here with a mission and a goal and they were fortunate enough to accomplish that."

Following a 2-2 first-quarter deadlock, the "Sister Act" of senior twins Halle and Madison Hargett combined on a 5-0 run to put the Cubs on top 9-6 after one.

Newport's momentum continued in the second quarter with Senior Kaitlyn Mitchell (12 pts.) landing a three-pointer. Newport extended its advantage to double digits when junior Grace Hargett (6 pts.) lobbed a three-pointer, followed by a 7-2 run on the shooting of Megan Wagner (12 pts., nine rebs.) and Mitchell and Madison Hargett, putting Newport up 25-10 at halftime.

The teams traded baskets in the third with both scoring 15 points each as Newport remained on top 38-23 after three. Newport continued displaying a good offensive rhythm and Wagner's layup in the lane provided the Cubs with their largest lead of the game at 49-28 with 2:14 left in the contest.

"According to the rankings, I guess it would have to be considered as an upset win,” said Madison Hargett, who had 11 points, 11 rebounds and four assists to earn the Moda Health Player-of-the-Game Award

Following the game, the team celebrated not only the victory but they also sang happy birthday to sophomore Michaela Wagner (coach's daughter), who turned age Sweet 16 on March 7.

Friday, March 8

NEWPORT 45, Marist Catholic 46

Newport advanced to the Friday semifinals to meet the No. 9-ranked Marist Catholic Spartans (19-9) and almost recorded a third straight playoff upset victory.

Marist, the Sky Em League runner-up from Eugene, won the 2018 5A title, before moving down to 4A this year. The seesaw battle between evenly-matched teams consisted of 13 changes in the lead and six tie scores.

Newport had a rough start, trailing 13-7 after the first quarter and then fell behind 17-9 in the second. The Cubs rallied with a 6-0 run, trimming the margin to 17-15 after Halle Hargett (16 pts.) sank two free throws before halftime. After the teams traded baskets, Halle Hargett dropped in two more from the line, lifting Newport in front 20-19 with 1:53 left. Wagner's two free throws helped Newport take a 22-21 halftime advantage.

"I thought that we really battled hard the whole game and we had a chance to win," said Halle Hargett, who won the Moda Health Player-of-the-Game Award. " We've had our ups and downs this season along with the coaching change. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going and I think the change has kind of helped revitalize our team."

The lead changed five times in a back-and-forth third quarter, with Mitchell’s long range jumper trimming a Spartan margin to 35-32 after three quarters. Then Newport scored the first four points of the fourth and went up 36-35 on a driving baseline layup by Wagner.

A key three-pointer by Mitchell later knotted it 39-39 and Newport tied again, 41-41, on Wagner's jumper in the lane with 3:18 left in the game. A third straight deadlock followed when Mitchell sank a layup, making it 43-43. A clutch shot by Wagner then lifted Newport in front 45-43 with 1:32 left.

After Marist scored to go up 46-45, Newport still had a chance for a win on their last possession of the game with 15 seconds left, but they were unable to score as Marist held on for the win.

"It was a battle and it went down to the wire," commented Coach Wagner. "We had a couple of possessions with a chance to score, but it didn't happen and we just came up a little short. I'm super proud of the girls, because they really fought their hearts out.”

Saturday, March 9

NEWPORT 52, Philomath 40

In Saturday's third/fifth place trophy game, Newport faced a familiar opponent in the Oregon West Conference Champion, the No. 6-ranked Philomath Warriors (23-5). The revenge-seeking Cubs lost twice to the league-winning Warriors in the regular season.

Playing with newfound intensity, the Cubs were determined to not let it happen a third time. Following two early lead changes and one tie score at 7-7, Wagner fired in a long-range jumper, putting Newport ahead 10-7 with 2:25 left in the first quarter. The Cubs never trailed after that.

"It feels really awesome to get third place and I feel so proud of my team," said Megan Wagner, who earned the Moda Health Player-of-the-Game Award. "If you would've asked me at any point of the season if we would be where we're at now, then I probably would've said no. We completely turned our season around and I couldn’t be more proud of everyone on our team.”

Wagner's turnaround jumper in the lane extended the lead to 15-9 and Newport led 15-11 at the end of the first quarter. Newport utilized a rock-solid 3-2 zone to simply overpower the Warriors’ offense, which failed to find the basket again until the third quarter.

Newport's impressive defense actually held Philomath scoreless for nearly 10 minutes, including a pointless second quarter, while the Cubs scored 13 to build a 28-11 halftime lead. Junior Hannah Trommlitz (2 pts.), Mitchell (7 pts., 8 rebs.), Madison Hargett (9 pts.), Halle Hargett (11 pts.) and Wagner (game-high 15 pts.) all contributed to the second quarter scoring surge.

"Every single game took lots of grit and lots of heart and I think that's kind of what helped us play with a high confidence level," said Megan Wagner. "We wanted to win this more than anything else, especially since Philomath beat us twice in the regular season, so it was definitely a very nice feeling to get some revenge."

Newport went on a 17-0 run in the second and third stanzas and took its largest lead of the game on Mitchell's layup with 7:07 left, making it 32-11. The Warrior drought ended when they narrowed the margin to 39-26 after three.

The Philomath comeback continued in the fourth, when they trimmed the margin to 39-30 with 6:00 left, but didn't get any closer than that as the Cubs regained the momentum and built another double-digit margin to pull away for the third place trophy.

"We were only considered as underdogs because of the seeding," said Coach Wagner. "In my mind, we were the better team every time we stepped on the floor. Against Marist, we just came up a little short. The kids definitely wanted to get revenge and show them (Philomath) that we were the better team and that's exactly what we did."

Saturday's contest marked the final game of their Newport High School basketball career for the Cubs senior starting five of Halle Hargett, Madison Hargett, Mitchell, Wagner and Sonya Cutler along with senior reserve Isabella McLane. Wagner earned an All-State Tournament First Team Award and Halle Hargett was selected for an All-State Tournament Second Team Award. Newport also received the State Tournament Sportsmanship Trophy.

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