Celt Antoine Wilder goes up for a shot in the game against North Salem Monday, Feb. 24. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Celt Antoine Wilder goes up for a shot in the game against North Salem Monday, Feb. 24. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

The Celts of the McNary High School boys junior varsity (JV) program had their ups and downs, but they finished the season as co-champions in the Central Valley Conference.

While a 15-8 record certainly tells part of the tale, Jaren Jones, the junior varsity coach, said it was the players’ commitment to stick together through adversity that told the rest.

“We grew together as a team and became stronger after competing in the Stayton varsity 4A basketball tournament. We were the only JV team in the tournament, and even though we went 0-3, we competed against every opponent until the buzzer sounded. As a result, we got tougher, improved on our weaknesses, and learned what it takes to be successful,” Jones said.

McNary posted only three losses in CVC competition. They lost both games with South Salem High School, the league co-champs, and dropped a third to McKay High School, but that was after a 5-0 start to the season.

“I would just give credit to the two other teams who were quality competition and just outplayed us on those two nights. However, even in our losses we competed until the end, and never gave up,” Jones said.

In the team’s final game of the season, with North Salem High School Monday, Feb. 24, the Vikings played scrappy on defense creating turnovers sometimes as quickly as the Celts took possession, but the team found its groove in the fourth quarter and outscored North 25-5 in the fourth quarter for a 64-34 win.

Standouts in a roster filled with talented players were junior Lacroix Hill and sophomore Jason Sperle, but Jones stressed that every game was a team effort.

“Lacroix is a varsity-ready basketball player that I just got lucky to have the privilege of coaching two years,” said Jones. “Jason is truly our leader on the team. He keeps all of his teammates thinking positive, but holds them accountable to our team expectations. He motivates everyone, while at the same time brings a toughness mindset to practice and games.”

While the roster is still developing as players, Jones said attention to their fundamentals would see them through.

“They work hard and give their best every opportunity they get,” Jones said. “They believe in the concept of a team and play the right way. All of them are extremely coachable and, if I taught them the right way, they will succeed more times than not.”

Austin Blake, Corey Crossley, Cade Goff, Tanner Gordon, Wyatt Grine, Matthew Ismay, Matthew Koopman, Richy Muhammad, Hayden Sader, Ryan Schneider and Antoine Roster all contributed to the success of the team this season.