Celt Turbicio Blanton looks for an open teammate in the Celts’ game with Forest Grove High School. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

It was a bumpy start for the McNary High School boys varsity basketball team last week.

After a 63-50 loss to Forest Grove High School, Wednesday, Nov. 30, the Celtics got rolled 80-43 by the Newberg High School Tigers.

“We were rushing things and shooting after two or three passes,” said Ryan Kirch, who made his debut as McNary’s new head coach. “Defensively, we have to be a little bit better about reacting instead of standing and watching the ball. We were also out of position quite a bit, which put us in foul trouble and gave the other teams some easy baskets.”

The visiting Vikings outshot the Celts 22-12 in the first period and never looked back. McNary’s best offensive effort came in a 17-point fourth quarter. Senior Dylan McHugh paced the Celtics with 12 points, Garren Robinett put in 10, Isaiah Montano put up nine points, Brandon Lao had eight points, Justin Burgess had five, and Nick McDonald, Grant Fletchall and Tiburcio Blanton had two points each.

“It took us a while to come together as a team and in the second half we picked it up on defense, passed the ball more,” Montano, a sophomore, said.

Kirch praised Montano for running the offense well in both games and credited McDonald with solid performances.

“Nick does a lot of things that you don’t necessarily see in the score column and Garren is certainly a competitor. We’ve asked a lot of our seniors as far as leadership and Garren did an outstanding job there,” Kirch said.

Montano and Lao were both concerned with the number of turnovers in the games, but Lao attributed some of them to early-season jitters.

“We were pretty nervous, but now that we’ve played two games we’re a bit more comfortable,” Lao, a sophomore, said.

The team needs to change things around by setting the tempo of each game early on, Montano said.

“If we start off stronger at the tip off, we’ll manage the tempo of the game better,” he said.

Kirch said the coaching staff will be working throughout the preseason to develop trust – trust in coaches and trust among teammates.

“In the Forest Grove game, we had moments where we played selfishly on both sides of the ball, but we had a spirited discussion at halftime and they played hard and fast and aggressive and unselfishly,” Kirch said. “I think that our goal is playing that way the rest of the year.”