By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
On Monday, Jan. 27, the McNary High School girls varsity basketball team was preparing for one of its biggest weeks yet with games on tap against West Salem and South Salem high schools.
The Celtics were ranked just behind the Titans in the Central Valley Conference when they met Tuesday, Jan. 28, but the two teams both had 3-1 records. McNary gave eighth-ranked South plenty of scares in the teams’ first meeting earlier this season.
“With West, it’s going to be a close game. We’re going to have to stay mentally tough to beat them,” said Lady Celt Sydney Hunter.
Head Coach Paul Pickerell hopes the girls draw on their first-game experiences with South this time around.
“After that game, we talked intensely about how they are just another team of high school girls no matter where they are ranked,” Pickerell said. “They’re good, but when we played hard and played smart, we stuck right with them.”
Junior Emma Jones said the Celts are also a different team this time around.
“We were a little bit nervous that first time, but we’ve improved since then and we can take a win,” she said.
McNary meets the Saxons at South, game time is 7 p.m. Friday, Jan.31.
The Lady Celts defeated both Sprague and McKay High Schools last week cruising to 63-39 and 56-33 victories, respectively.
Four of the girls put up double-digit offense in the contest with Sprague Tuesday, Jan. 21.
Hunter led with 15 points, Madi Hingston put up 11; Kaelie Flores and Reina Strand had 10 each; Jasmine Ernest put in seven; Jones had four; Cammie Decker had three; Ashlee Koenig had two and Alyx Peterson drained one from the foul line.
The Celts outpaced the Olys 34-17 in the first half and never looked back.
“We went in there not knowing what would happen, but they were aggressive and we stayed tough without letting it get away,” Hunter said.
McNary hosted the McKay Royal Scots Friday, Jan. 24, and turned an 11-10 lead after the first frame into a blowout win.
“All week, we did a lot better with our turnovers and our execution in the half-court offense,” Pickerell said.
Three of the Celts turned in double-digit offense against McKay. Baili Keeton led the Celtic charge with 13 points (including three treys); Hingston had 12; Flores had 10; Hunter had seven; Strand and Decker had four each; and Koenig had two.
“We had good chemistry together and had a lot of assists,” Jones said.
As McNary prepared for the second round robin of the Central Valley Conference, Jones said the team still had work to do.
“I think we want to work on our help defense and shutting down the best players on the other teams,” she said.