McNary’s Deven Hunter looks for an open teammate in a game late last year. McNary struggled in every game of a tough bracket at the Nike Interstate Shootout last week. (KEIZERTIMES/Brian Rennick)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The Lady Celts of the McNary High School girls varsity basketball team knew they were in for a tough schedule heading into the Nike Interstate Shootout last week. While they expected rigorous competition as part of the most elite bracket, they were unprepared for the ways in which their own ranks faltered.

“We weren’t playing as a team, it was more individuals and we were very inconsistent so it was hard to fix it,” said junior Stacey Titchenal. “We’re in a bit of a downhill slump right now, but we have to get back into.”

The Celts faced Oregon City High School, the top-ranked team in the state, in the first game of the tournament and hung with them in the first period. The Celts put in 11 points to Oregon City’s 19, but McNary faded quickly after that managing, at most, eight points in the game final three periods. Oregon City won 76-31.

“It felt great through the first quarter and the girls handled their pressure really well, but part of Oregon City’s tactic is just to wear you down. They wore us down a little faster than I wanted us to,” said Molly Gehley, McNary head coach. Gehley said the team’s ability to sub-in without missing a beat was a wonder to behold as a coach.

Celt Ashlee Koenig had played the team a couple of times in middle school and said the most amazing thing was that nothing had changed. “They don’t make mistakes,” she said.

McNary had more success the following day with a 27-24 win over the Santa Fe Indians out of New Mexico.

“I think we were trying to make certain that an out-of-state team didn’t come in and take a win off of us, so we were aggressive the entire time,” Koenig said.

Gehley felt the team made up in effort what it couldn’t get going off the backboards.

“Our shooting wasn’t great, but our effort was and we plugged through,” she said.

The Celtics final two games with Hermiston and Glencoe high schools also ended in losses, 61-41 and 38-29, respectively.  The1-3 tournament record left the Lady Celts with an overall 7-4 record and two games remaining in the preseason.

The lesson that came out of the tournament for Titchenal was the importance of playing as a team and pushing through frustrations.

“If you’re being to frustrated with yourself, it’s really hard to work with others on the court and we’re at our best when we’re working together,’ she said.

Gehley said the frustration got the better of the Celts, but they were already resetting themselves for the CVC competition that begins next week, “I think we just ran out of oomph by the last day. We took our lumps and tried to keep in mind that we would be stronger from it.”

Despite the tournament results, Koenig was eager for the opportunity to face off with league competition.

“We just need to stay up and stay positive and be more consistent running offenses and little things that will get better and better each time we do them well,” she said. “I’m not going to lie, I’m excited to see what our team is capable of against the teams in our league.”