Deven Hunter puts up a shot during the South Salem game last week. The Saxons escaped with a win in the teams’ third meeting. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School girls varsity basketball team discovered just how hard it is to beat a team three times in a season last week.

The Lady Celts fell to the South Salem High School Saxons 48-43 in the teams’ second meeting in less than a week.

The loss set up the team to play for third place in the Central Valley Conference Tournament against McKay High School, Tuesday Feb. 21. McNary won that contest 60-43.

After an early McKay lead, McNary surged past the Royal Scots in the first quarter. McKay never threatened again. Celt Deven Hunter poured in 30 points on the night. Averi Wing put in 10 points, Teresa Peterson and Jessica Darras had four points each, Ashlee Koenig and Menley Neitzel had three points apiece, Caitlyn Tartak, Lauren Hudgins and Stacey Titchenal had two points apiece.

Despite the loss, McNary’s game with South was a thriller. A week earlier, the teams were neck-and-neck in the last six seconds when the Celts put in the go-ahead basket at the buzzer. That outcome had Molly Gehley, McNary head coach, anticipating a tough rematch.

“We expected a tough game going in that would be down to the wire,” Gehley said.

Both teams stumbled out of the block with nearly three minutes of scoreless play. The Saxons struck first on a lay-in, but Hunter tied it up on the swing back down the court. South led 9-5 in the waning minutes of the first quarter when Peterson hit a three-pointer to make it 9-8. A three-point goal by Baili Keeton with 35 seconds left on the clock in the first quarter closed South’s lead to 13-11.

Keeton tied the game on a lay-in shortly after the beginning of the second quarter. Hudgins put the Celtics on top 15-13 by grabbing a rebound and putting in the basket, but South shot back past the Celtics with a three-point goal.

McNary trailed much of the quarter, but a two-pointer by Darras and a second three-pointer by Peterson allowed the Celtics to finish with a 20-18 lead at the half.

It was South’s turn to tie up the game early in the second half, but a three-pointer by Titchenal kept McNary in control. The teams traded leads a number of times in the quarter, but South emerged with the 32-29 lead at the buzzer.

The fourth quarter proved to be the Celts most troubling.

“We had problems getting the ball to go in the second half especially and that really hurt us down the stretch,” Gehley said.

Wing briefly put the Celtics back ahead of the Saxons, but South went on a 14-6 tear that McNary never recovered from. Most of the Celts’ remaining points were made from the foul line.

“I thought our girls battled hard, but [South’s] defense was very good,” Gehley said.

Hunter and Peterson led the team with 14 points each, Keeton had six, Titchenal put in three and Wing, Darras and Hudgins had two apiece.