By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary bowlers wanted to send senior Nick Blythe out in style by winning a state championship.

“We wanted it so badly for him,” head coach Dan Kaplan said. “He’s one of the best around.”

The Celtics got mighty close, falling to Mazama High School in the finals at KingPin’s in Portland.

After finishing third out of 16 teams during 30 qualifying games on Saturday Feb. 25 and Sunday, Feb. 26, McNary won three matches in the winner’s bracket to get to Mazama.

Even averaging 220 in the two-game set, the Celtics fell to the loser’s bracket, where they won two more matches to get a rematch with undefeated Mazama.

Having to win twice, McNary put the pressure on their opponent by winning the first set of games and even led after the first game of the second set but Mazama came back strong to win the state title.

The Celtics averaged over 200 in the finals.

“We gave it all until the very last game,” Kaplan said. “It’s very tough. The competition has really improved, amazingly. The energy was unbelievable. We have the greatest parents and supporters. Parents are screaming and yelling and cheering. That always helps out. We always have people complaining because we’re so loud.”

McNary had four bowlers in the top 20 of the all-stars—Nick Blythe, Tim Kiser, Layton Thurlow and Chandler Gregory. Kaplan said at one point Kiser bowled 21 straight strikes.

The McNary girls also competed in the state tournament, finishing 13th.

“It was a learning experience,” Kaplan said. “It’s tough. They had no substitutions.”

Kaplan said McNary’s success wouldn’t be possible without the support of Town & Country Lanes as well as sponsors Thrivent Financial, McNary Booster Club, JC’s Pizzaria, Power Concrete Cutting, Keizer Elks, Mr. and Mrs. Sjullie, Maragaret Hughes and Alex Clark.

He also thanked the many parents who boost team morale and coordinate buying food for the team.

“As coaches, we can’t do it alone,” Kaplan said.