McNary’s Cade Goff, a sophomore, drives to the hoop in the game with Aloha High School Saturday, Dec. 6. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

McNary’s Cade Goff, a sophomore, drives to the hoop in the game with Aloha High School Saturday, Dec. 6. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School boys varsity basketball team won its first game with a buzzer-beating basket Wednesday, Dec. 3.

Senior Tregg Peterson tied up the game 64-64 with eight seconds left on the clock by knocking down two free throws. Then Peterson got a steal as the Sherwood High School Warriors tried to make it back down the court. Peterson pushed the ball back up the court to junior Trent Van Cleave who passed it to senior Devon Dunagan for a lay-in and the win.

“It was a huge way to win after we started off not doing anything right,” said Van Cleave.

While it may sound like an overstatement, the Celts missed their first 13 attempts on the basket in the game’s early going.

“We had trouble getting into our game,” said junior Harry Cavell. “But we picked up the offense and the shots started to fall.”

After several seasons of struggle when it came to winning close games, Head Coach Ryan Kirch was relieved to see the team’s experience paying off.

“We have a lot of guys who have been in those situations now and they don’t get nervous,” Kirch said. “Tregg wasn’t having the best game that night, but big players make big plays and he came through for us.”

Throughout the night, the Celts made the most of their depth by sharing the ball. Dunagan had a team-leading 18 points; sophomore Mathew Ismay had 11, Cade Goff had nine; Peterson and Van Cleave had eight each; Cavell had five; Cole Thomas had four and Drew McHugh had three.

“We’ve got the chemistry this season and we’re all really playing for each other,” Van Cleave.

McNary followed the close win by mopping the floor with the Aloha High School Warriors Saturday, Dec. 6. The Celts won 65-38.

“We had a lot better execution and made another big step when it got to the third quarter of the game,” Kirch said.

Aloha was first to the board with a three-pointer, but McNary claimed the lead within a minute. The Keizer team began to pull away on a trey by Cavell that made the score 11-7, and the Celts ended the quarter up 18-11. Aloha drew within two points of the Celts midway through the second period, but Van Cleave helped the team stay out of reach with a three-pointer.

The big step Kirch was a nearly four-minute pummeling of Aloha on defense. McNary broke up or grabbed the rebound on every offensive attack Aloha offered up for 3:54 seconds. It ended only because the Celts drew a foul.

“We talked at halftime about those next minutes dictating the rest of the game, but they were the ones who executed,” Kirch said.

By the end of the third quarter, McNary was up 44-25. Peterson dunked the first basket of the fourth frame on a fast break.

“There were no jitters and we got a lot of shots to fall,” said Cavell. “Right now, we’re trying to let our defense create our offense and that’s what happened with Aloha.”

As a team, the Celts notched 19 steals against Aloha. Dunagan led team scoring again with 17 points; Cavell had 12; Ismay and Peterson had 10 each; Cade Goff had nine; Van Cleave had five; and Cole Thomas put in two.

The Celts host West Albany High School for their first game of Greater Valley Conference play Friday, Dec. 12. The Bulldogs finished fourth in the 5A state tournament last season and return with a powerful line-up.

“Our half-court execution needs to be a bit better, but we have the depth in the roster to play the type of game we want to play. A big key to this season will be dictating the game tempo and making teams adjust to us,” Kirch said.