By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Conference play next up for Grizzlies

Marcus Larson/News-RegisterMcMinnville post Matthew Long (32) goes in for a layup Dec. 28 vs. Crater. The Grizzlies open Pacific Conference play tonight at Tualatin.
Marcus Larson/News-Register
McMinnville post Matthew Long (32) goes in for a layup Dec. 28 vs. Crater. The Grizzlies open Pacific Conference play tonight at Tualatin.

McMinnville (4-5) fell behind 15-11 after the first quarter but was outscored 18-8 in the second quarter. The Grizzlies tried to play catch up in the second half, outscoring the Comets by six in the final two quarters, but one sub-par quarter sank them.

“Our game against Crater was really what we’ve been really struggling with lately,” McMinnville coach Willie Graham said. “We can’t put together consistent halves.”

The McMinnville School District was in session this week, returning a sense of normalcy to the basketball team’s routine, which Graham said will help.

“It’s always nice to get back into a routine,” Graham said.

Unfortunately, the Grizzlies have also found themselves in routine holes during games.

“We know what we need to work on,” he said.

Mac plays at 7:15 p.m. tonight at Tualatin (5-4).

The Grizzlies’ up-and-down nonconference schedule, Graham said, has prepared them for the Pacific Conference. Tonight vs. the Timberwolves, Mac will face one of the highest scoring teams in the state. Tualatin has scored less than 60 points once, and that was a 72-59 loss vs. Barlow in early December. The Timberwolves are averaging 84.3 points a game and have scored 85 or more points four times, including 105-75 and 103-91 wins vs. North Medford and Lakeridge respectively.

“It’s unbelievable the way they have been scoring,” Graham said. “They are going to put us to the test right away.”

Mac then travels Tuesday to play at 1-9 Hillsboro, but it’s the three games after Tuesday that will provide the Grizzlies with a true measuring stick. In order starting Friday, Mac plays at home vs. Century and Tigard followed by an away game at Forest Grove. Century (6-4) returns everyone from its conference championship season last year, and the Jaguars are currently ranked No. 6 in the state. Tigard (4-7) has had a slow start to the season, but Graham said he also expects the Tigers to be near the top.

The surprise team, though, is Forest Grove and its 7-3 record. The Vikings have more than a few wins vs. 5A teams, but Graham said the Vikings and Timberwolves should also be good.

“(Century, Tigard and Tualatin) are the three clear-cut favorites right now,” he said.


Girls basketball poised for conference play tonight

The McMinnville girls basketball team enters its conference schedule similarly to the way it did last season. In 2011-12, the Grizzlies were 6-2 and played their first conference game at Tualatin. They lost 42-21.

This season, the Grizzlies are 6-3 and again face Tualatin in an early conference test. They play at 5:45 p.m. tonight at Tualatin.

“That first loss to Tualatin last year was part of the growth process,” Mac coach Sean Coste said.

The Grizzlies finished 16-8 last season with a loss in the first round of the playoffs at St. Mary’s. That loss at Tualatin ended up being the difference between the Grizzlies placing third in the league or fourth. Coste said his team was still getting used to thinking they would be competitive. This season, Mac has built on that.

“We were new to this mental approach where we come into the game where we think we’re going to win and are going to compete,” Coste said. “We are further along this year.”

Tualatin’ start to the season hasn’t been as good as last year (4-5), but the Timberwolves and pretty much any of the teams in the conference will compete for the league title it seems. Usually mediocre Forest Grove and Hillsboro are both 8-2, Mac is 6-3 and Tigard and Century are both 7-4. Newberg (4-4), Tualatin (4-5) and Glencoe (4-6) — last season’s conference champion — are all in different stages of rebuilding.

The Tigers are the highest ranked team in the conference at No. 7, and they have played some tough competition in the Nike Interstate Shootout.

“Tigard is an obvious front-runner,” Coste said.

Coste said he’s looking for some more consistency from his team’s play tonight, and he said it doesn’t matter that it’s on the road.

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