By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
If there’s one lesson the McNary High School girls varsity basketball team took away from its 90-40 win over Sprague High School, it was this: it’s good to have goals.
“We had a goal of getting 80 points when we got in and we made it to 90. We were so set on getting that goal,” said senior Ashlee Koenig.
Five McNary players made it to double-digits in the outing Tuesday, Feb. 18. The Lady Celts were led by Cammie Decker’s 17 points that included four three-pointers. McNary never scored less than 21 points in any quarter, leaving little mystery as to what the outcome would be after the first quarter.
“Our shots were dropping and we communicated really well. It was the first time that we ran our plays well,” said Lady Celt Baili Keeton, the team’s other senior. “Sometimes we get caught off guard when a team isn’t at our level, but this time we did a good job of keeping our focus.”
Behind Decker, Koenig had 13 points, Sydney Hunter and Kaelie Flores had 12 apiece, Madi Hingston had 10, Reina Strand had eight, Emma Jones put in six, Keeton had five and Jaylene Montano had two.
The win over Sprague advanced the Celtics to the second round of the Central Valley Conference tournament to decide seeding headed into the state tournament.
The team faced West Salem High School for the second time in two weeks Thursday, Feb. 20.
The Titans scored a home court 55-35 victory in the teams’ most recent contest, but that only fueled the fire of the Celtics.
“We were frustrated by not beating them the week before and we were so hyped up in the locker game,” Keeton said. “The team was on a steady high throughout the game instead of going up and down.”
McNary won 55-52 and held off a late-game rally by the Titans to advance to the tournament finals Tuesday, Feb. 25.
“This time we were all determined and we came in super pumped. There was an energy there that carried over from the Sprague win,” Koenig said.
The teams were neck-and-neck after the first frame, but the Celts pulled ahead by five points on an 8-0 run to go into halftime with a 30-25 lead.
“The prior week,we didn’t shoot the ball well and this time they didn’t shoot the ball well while we shot really well,” said Paul Pickerell, McNary head coach. “We came out with a lot of intensity and played really good half-court defense.”
The Celts shot 24 of 57 from the paint and had 12 blocks to secure the win.
Keeton led all scoring with 18 points, Flores had 13, Strand had eight, Hunter had six, Hingston and Koenig had four each and Jasmine Ernest had two.
The win over West set up the Celtics to face South Salem High School for the tournament title Tuesday, Feb. 25. McNary’s last game with the Saxons ended with only five points separating the two teams.
“This is an opportune time to play them. It’s a great game to have right before playoffs,” Pickerell said. “We’ve played them close and stayed competitive with them. Last time we had them on the ropes and couldn’t hold them. This time, we can take that one extra step and finish them off.”
Pickerell said he’ll be looking to Keeton to lead the team.
“She’s been scoring well, passing the ball well and she’s always bringing a lot of energy on defense,” he said.
Koenig said it will come down to which team does all the little things right.
“We have to communicate like we did against West Salem and make all our lay-ins and free throws. South is a really good team and they do the small things like that,” Koenig said.