McNary’s Jasmine Ernest heads for the hoop after getting a steal in the game with Dallas High School Tuesday, Dec. 10. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

McNary’s Jasmine Ernest heads for the hoop after getting a steal in the game with Dallas High School Tuesday, Dec. 10.
(KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Valiant effort wasn’t enough for McNary High School’s girls varsity basketball team to overcome a tough Lebanon High School team when the two programs clashed Friday, Dec. 13.

The Lady Celts fell 54-40.

“They’re one of the top teams in 5A and probably a top 15 team in the state,” said Paul Pickerell, McNary head coach. “We really played our tails off, but our shooting just failed us in the second half. And they made some of their tough shots.”

The loss came on the heels of McNary’s first win in the season opener against Dallas High School, 57-41.

“We really put pressure on Dallas by matching their speed and intensity,” said junior Jasmine Ernest. “We were able to do that in the first half with Lebanon, but they pulled away from us in the second half.”

The teams went into halftime with Lebanon in the lead 29-26. The Warriors outscored 25-14 in the second half en route to the win.

“Even in the loss with Lebanon, we still worked very hard. They’re a strong team and good competitors,” said senior Baili Keeton. Like Pickerell, she said Celtic shots weren’t falling despite the team’s efforts.

Keeton, a three-year varsity starter, said the team is doing a good job of knowing its limitations and then figuring out other ways to accomplish its goals.

“It doesn’t come easy for any of us, we don’t have the natural talent of some other teams. But, we can work from the outside and use our hustle,” Keeton said. “Our biggest strength is working together and off of each other. With these ladies, I can expect that they are going to give 100 percent.”

Ernest said the Lady Celts are reaping the benefits of having a large contingent of returning players, but there’s still work to be done.

“We need to execute better on the little things, but the program is developing in a way that we’ve all bought into,” Ernest said.

Keeton said finding one thing to work on individually would make the team a stronger force to contend with.

Pickerell was eager for the opportunities to square off with Parkrose and Roseburg high schools this week.

“They will press us hard and give us a chance to work on the press break and then execute better on offense to get good shots,” he said.

The Celts traveled to meet both teams, but Pickerell hoped to get in one final game before Christmas break on Saturday, Dec. 21. He was still on the hunt for an opponent at press time.