By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
A raucous finish to boys varsity basketball was nearly assured as the Central Valley Conference teams headed into the final games of regular play.
Undefeated South Salem High School, which has already cinched the league title, sits astride a pack of ravenous teams as they duke it out to determine placing headed into a tournament to decide seeding in the state playoffs. McKay, North Salem, Sprague and West Salem were all 3-4 in the league while McNary crouched at the bottom with a 2-5 record, waiting to pounce on any sign of weakness.
“The guys are anxious to play. We like how the schedule plays out and we control our own destiny for the two seed,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach. “It’s been tough not to be able to practice due to snow, but it has allowed some guys who have been banged up to get healthy.”
The Celts took down the Titans in the teams’ first meeting earlier this season and its games with Sprague and McKay were decided by less than five points total.
McNary is also coming off a 50-45 win over North Salem Tuesday, Feb. 4, a reversal of the loss the Celts suffered to the Vikings in the first round robin of the CVC.
“We responded well to the loss (to South Salem), we usually do,” Kirch said. “We had a good mental mindset and came ready to play.”
North never let the Celts far out of its sight, but McNary was nursing a 41-32 lead after the third frame. At their peak, the Celts had a 14-point lead. Senior Braden Taylor helped quiet the output of Viking star Malik Leaks at the outset of the game, but got into foul trouble and was replaced by junior Tregg Peterson, who finished it out.
“Malik made a couple of shots and they really pressured us late in the fourth trying to get turnovers,” Kirch said. “We didn’t rebound as well as we needed, which has been a problem for us, but we made enough plays late to get the win.”
North outscored the Celts in the fourth quarter 13-9, but McNary emerged with the win.
Johnathan Doutt led the Celt scoring with 21 points, Peterson and Trent Van Cleave had four each, Taylor, Hayden Gosling and Cade Goff had two each.
Kirch said it was a breakout game for Devon Dunagan with 15 points and nine rebounds.
“He really controlled the inside and ran the floor well in transition,” Kirch said.