Hunter Christenson jostles with a Reynolds defender in the game Friday, Jan. 4. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Hunter Christenson jostles with a Reynolds defender in the game Friday, Jan. 4. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

In some ways, the McNary High School boys varsity basketball loss to Reynolds High School was a microcosm of the team’s season thus far. At least according to Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach.

“It was sort of the the tale of two halves. It was a good comeback, but we put ourselves in such a deep hole from the start. We’re still working on 32 minutes of solid basketball,” he said.

The Celtics managed to close a four-point deficit to one in the early minutes, but the Raiders unleashed a torrent of three-point goals in the first half that gave the Raiders a 35-15 lead by halftime.

“In the second half, we started playing more as a team and turned it around a bit,” said Braden Taylor, a McNary junior.

Two plays in particular helped spin the game in McNary’s direction. The first involved a leaping save to keep the ball in-bounds by Taylor, it ended up in the hands of Hayden McCowan who spun into the basket for a lay-in. The second was a behind-the-neck pass from Johnathan Doutt to Connor Goff who put it in the net.

“We started making the turn and the crowd came around with us. It gave us a fire as we got to the end of the game,” said Jon Kiser, a McNary senior.

A three-point goal by Taylor and a shot from the foul line by Goff drew the Celts within four points, 48-44, but their momentum stalled in the final minutes. The Raiders took the win 53-44.

The Celts headed into Central Valley competition Tuesday, Jan. 8, with a contest against South Salem High School after a 5-8 preseason.

“There were some good things, we had a winning streak in there and some double-digit wins and moments when we’ve seen what we’re capable of, but our next step is being able to control what we can control and not worrying about anything else,” Kirch said.

The team’s record thus far includes a three-game win streak in mid-December and only one blow out loss in its third game of the season.

“Our shooting percentage has gotten better. Rebounding is going to be a big thing because we are a smaller team and we’re going to have to beat them off the boards and on the run,” Taylor said.

Kiser said that the start of CVC play will help fuel the fire as the rest of the season unfolds.

“League is so much different because there’s a lot more on the line and I’m hoping the higher stakes will push us to stronger starts,” Kiser said.

While Sprague and West Salem will likely be the league’s big dogs this season, Kirch said the rest of the league matches up fairly well, but that also means the Celts will have to find a way to more even-keeled play.

“The one thing we have been consistent on is our inconsistency, individually and collectively,” Kirch said. “We recognize our strengths and weaknesses and where we need to do better, the challenge is doing it on a regular basis.”