Lady Celt Averi Wing darts around a McKay defender. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School girls varsity basketball team narrowly avoided a third place finish in the Central Valley Conference with a two-point win over South Salem High School last week.

However, by defeating the Saxons 43-41 in the last game of league play, the Lady Celts earned themselves a bye in the first round of the CVC tournament that determines seeding headed into the state playoffs.

The game came down to the wire with the Lady Celts taking control of the ball with six seconds left on the clock and a 41-41 tie game.

McNary’s Teresa Peterson’s put the ball into play with a pass to sophomore Baili Keeton. Keeton raced it down the far edge of the court ducking four Saxon defenders and putting up a shot that kissed off the backboard. Peterson grabbed it in the air and put it back into the basket at the buzzer.

“Baili did an incredible job of getting through their defense. I just happened to be in the right spot,” Peterson said.

While it was a thrilling finish to a tough game, Celt Stacey Titchenal said the team might have put itself in a better position leading up to the end.

“We could have done a little better on defense and getting out quicker. I don’t feel like were talking as much as we could have or running all the way through our plays, but we were hustling a good bit,” she said.

McNary Head Coach Molly Gehley was most impressed with the way the team handled the Saxon pressure.

Deven Hunter led the Celts with 20 points against South, Baili Keeton put up 10 points, including two three-pointers, Peterson and Jessica Darras added six points each. Titchenal hit one from the foul line.

The win put the team in a unusual position. After earning a bye in the first round of the CVC tournament, they were set to face South again in the second round on Thursday, Feb. 16, and it’s often said that it’s hard to beat a team three times. However, if the Celts prove the exception to the rule with South, who McNary has beaten twice, they’ll have to hope it holds true in a rematch with West Salem High School, who have two wins over the Celtics this season.

Gehley didn’t have much use for old adages.

“I’m feeling good that we’ll be in a good spot and it will come down to the wire again against South,” she said.

McNary had an easier 68-20 victory over McKay High School earlier last week.

“We started playing sloppy defense and got some sloppy fouls, but it was good practice for working on those things that we need to work on,” Titchenal said.

Hunter had 20 points, Titchenal added 10 points, Caitlin Tartak and Peterson put in nine, Averi Wing had seven points, Darras chipped in five points, Madison Rohl, Lauren Hudgins and Aerial Rice had four points apiece, and Jasmine Ernest sunk a penalty shot.