McNary’s Teresa Peterson makes a break for the hoop in practices last week. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School girls varsity basketball team will, for the most part, be picking up where it left off last season.

“We’re starting off where we finished, we can build on that and keep getting better,” said Deven Hunter, a McNary senior.

The Celtics return six starters from their last season: Hunter, Teresa Peterson, Stacey Titchenal, Jessica Darras, Averi Win and Baili Keeton. The biggest change among that core group is Hunter signing to play for the Oregon State University Beavers two weeks ago.

Hunter, the tallest player in the Central Valley Conference, averaged 18 points a game last season mostly on the inside, but she’ll be transitioning to a three guard role at OSU, so fans should expect her to spend a noticeable amount of time in the three-point range.

“She’s developing her outside game we want to help her develop that,” said Molly Gehley, McNary head coach. “I think it gives us a lot of confidence as a team.”

Gehley expects Hunter to be pivotal as the Celts progress through the season, but doesn’t want her to become a crutch. “We don’t want to rely too much on her and Deven is very committed to that, too. She gives up passes we tell her not to give up. We have some great tools, we just have to make sure we use them.”

Gehley expects Darras to be mixing things up under the basket and is happy to have Wing’s attack on the basket back on the court in addition to other talents returning players bring to the game.

“I want to see everybody using their strengths and learning,” Peterson said. “Right now we’re working a lot on our [offense/defense] transitions.”

Hunter and Peterson wanted to see the team improve on its second place finish last season, or more succinctly, a CVC title.

“We want to vie for the CVC title again and hope to get a couple of games into the playoffs,” Gehley said. “We want to get to the big show, but we’ll have to see.”

Earning their way into contention for the state title is a few months and lots of hard games away, but Darras said the team is well positioned to make a run because of all the experience players gained last season.

“We have to give 100 percent in games and practice and work our hardest all the time. We have new people, but we’ve played together before and that will help, too,” she said.

The team’s first toss-up will be Thursday, Dec. 1, in an away game with Newberg High School. Game time is 7:15 p.m.