OREGON – Sam Lambrigtsen scored her 2,000th point almost before the Newman Comets got on the scoreboard.
Playing with the urgency befitting a team full of seniors, the Oregon Hawks started strong and cruised to their second regional title in 4 years, defeating the Comets 74-32 at the Blackhawk Center on Thursday night in the title game of the 2A Oregon Regional.
"I felt like we kind of ran into a buzz saw," Newman coach Jay Howell said. "Oregon played really poised and relaxed, they shot a high percentage, and they got out to a lead and forced us to play catch-up all night.
"It would have taken a great effort on our part to win tonight, and while I was proud of our effort, the execution just wasn't there when we needed it at the start."
Oregon (19-11) came out on fire from the get-go. The Hawks scored the game's first 13 points, and led 22-6 after Lambrigtsen's 3-pointer off Emy Wright's inbounds pass in the final minute of the first quarter.
The 3 gave Lambrigtsen nine points on the night; she came in needing eight points to become the first Hawk in history to score 2,000 in her career.
"It pretty much just feels unreal," Lambrigtsen said. "I didn't know I was that close, but the crowd went crazy and my teammates were congratulating me, and it was just so special … and it was even more special since we won."
It was all the usual suspects for Oregon in this one. Lambrigtsen (23 points) and Wright (21 points) led the way, and their Hawk teammates supported them admirably. Ten of Oregon's 11 players scored in the game, and the Hawks shot 47 percent (26-for-55) from the floor.
Take away the 5-for-18 from 3-point range, and Oregon shot a blistering 57 percent from inside the arc, in addition to hitting 17 of its 22 free throws (77 percent).
In addition, the Hawks nabbed 17 steals on 25 Newman turnovers, and outscored the Comets 19-0 on the fast break. Oregon assisted on 16 of its 26 field goals, outrebounded Newman 45-28, and blocked five shots while limiting the Comets to 26 percent shooting (14-fof-54) – including 1-for-23 from 3-point range.
"We watched Newman on Tuesday, and we knew they could play pressure defense and run the floor," Wright said. "We knew it was important to get the momentum early, make them play our game instead of theirs."
"It was a big key for us to get comfortable right away," Oregon coach Kristy Eckardt said, "and get everybody involved on both ends of the court."
After taking Oregon's initial haymaker, the Comets (8-16) fought back. Sarah Trujillo scored the last basket of the first quarter and the first two free throws of the second, then Mary Alice Oswalt bracketed a Julie Hurd basket with two of her own to cut the deficit to 27-16.
"We were a little hesitant, and it took us some time to get into it," Oswalt said. "But by then, it was already too late. Oregon played their game and played it well … and played it right from the start.
"We realized we weren't playing the way we liked to, and we picked it up, but we didn't have an answer for them."
The 11-point margin was as close as Newman got. Wright and Lambrigtsen swapped buckets and assists, then Kelsey Pudlas scored a possession before Lambrigtsen's fast-break three-point play.
The Hawks scored the final 12 points of the first half and first seven of the second, taking a 46-16 lead less than 3 minutes into the third quarter. The 42-point final margin was the biggest of the game.
Oregon added its second regional title in Eckardt's four seasons, and broke a two-game losing streak in regional finals.
"This is what we've worked for, what we've wanted, what we've been waiting for," Wright said. "Now, we get to keep going, push farther and play harder, take that next step."
"We pushed the ball well, moved it around on offense, and had great defensive intensity for the whole game," Lambrigtsen added. "We played so well on both ends of the floor, and we're where we want to be going into next week."
Wright added eight rebounds, six assists and seven steals to her 21 points, and Lambrigtsen finished with four assists and three steals with her game-high 23 points. McKaylee Better hit three 3s and had 10 points and five steals, while Kimmie Janke was one of three Hawks to score four points, and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds. McCahl Sanders was the lone Oregon player not to score, but she had five rebounds and blocked two shots.
Oswalt led the Comets with 15 points, eight rebounds and two steals, and Aubree Schmitt had two points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals. Trujillo scored six points, and Kayci Howell chipped in four points and six boards.
"I'm definitely happy with the way we've been playing the last four or five games," Oswalt said. "We've been playing together, playing Newman basketball, and while it's sad to see it end, it's been a lot of fun with these girls this season."
Class 2A Oregon Regional final
Oregon 74, Newman 32
Star of the game: Emy Wright, Oregon, 21 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 7 steals
Key performers: Sam Lambrigtsen, Oregon, 23 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, passed 2,000 career points; McKaylee Beeter, Oregon, 10 points, 5 steals; Mary Alice Oswalt, Newman, 15 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals; Aubree Schmitt, Newman, 2 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals
Up next: Class 2A Aurora Christian Sectional semifinal, Oregon vs. Prophetstown, 6 p.m. Tuesday