Celt Baili Keeton breaks away and drives to the net during the girls’ game with Sunset Friday, Jan. 7. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

After a strong preseason showing, the McNary girls varsity basketball team entered into league play on a win.

The Lady Celts split their final two preseason games of the season losing to Barlow High School Tuesday, Jan. 4, and picking up a win over Sunset High School Friday, Jan. 7.

“Barlow was a turnover festival for us,” said Molly Gehley, McNary head coach. “But our girls kept working hard and we never gave up, when things aren’t going well that’s the stuff you like to see.”

Barlow outscored McNary 15-6 in the first quarter in the 54-38 loss.

“We didn’t start out as aggressive and slowly got into it. I still think we could have won that game,” said Kristina McCalmon, a McNary senior.

Deven Hunter put in 15-points in the game, Teresa Peterson added eight, Jessica Darras put in six, Keri Stein added five, Averi Wing drained a bucket, Bodine put up two,  and Stacey Titchenal and Baili Keeton had a point each.

“It was easy to tell we didn’t play as a team at first, but we grouped together and tried our hardest as we got back into it,” said Jenessa Bodine, a McNary freshman.

The team fought a back-and-forth battle against Aloha that wasn’t settled until the final minutes of the game in a 42-40 victory for the Lady Celts.

“We were playing well as a team against Sunset,” Stein said. “It helped that we’d been practicing really hard.”

Cutting down on turnovers and Hunter’s 22 rebounds helped to keep the Apollos at bay, Gehley said.

“Baili Keeton played a really nice game and Jessica Darras continues to have good games for us,” Gehley said.

Hunter led all scoring with 16 points, Darras added eight, Peterson put in seven, Keeton added five, Wing and McCalmon put in three, and Menley Neitzel, Titchenal, Stein and Bodine drained a free throw each.

Heading into league play, the team was focusing on defense and intensity early in the week.

“We can be more intense in practice, and I would like to see us build the intensity there and the games will be easier for us,” McCalmon said.

Gehley’s gameplan for the team’s Central Valley Conference opener was keeping the tempo in check.

“West Salem is going to be a big challenge with the diversity in their players and making sure we get the right match up,” Gehley said. “We’ll need to be patient and make sure we’re playing at our pace, not theirs.”

The team is ready for whatever challenges their foes present, Stein said.

“We may be small in number, size and experience, but we’re ready to compete,” she said.