By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
McNary High School sophomore Jaylene Montano ignited second-half scoring vs. McMinnville High School in a varsity basketball game Friday, Jan. 23.
Montano replaced senior Jasmine Ernest who got into foul trouble in the first half, then drained a trio of three-pointers and 3 of 4 from the field to lead Celtic scoring with 16 points in a 47-29 win.
“Once that first shot (a three pointer) went in, my confidence went up. From there it was a matter of trying to get out in the open and making sure we ran through our plays aggressively,” Montano said.
It was the fourth consecutive win for McNary, and came as the team was about to begin the second round robin of the Greater Valley Conference.
The Lady Celts had to wrest back the lead in the game against the Grizzlies in the latter half of the first period on a basket by Kailey Doutt. The bucket put McNary up 6-4.
“We started the games getting good looks, but shots we’d been making just weren’t falling. We were trying some new things in our defense that weren’t quite working, but our man-to-man and half-court defense was just outstanding,” said Derick Handley, McNary head coach. “Luckily, it was one of those games where the defense kept us in it while the offense warmed up.”
By the half, the Lady Celts were maintaing a slim, 15-11, lead.
“For the first half, it was mostly trying to figure out how they play and they were aggressive. We were a little thrown off by that. When we came back out we knew a bit more about what they were going to do and adapted to it,” said Kaelie Flores, a McNary junior.
McNary, powered by Montano, stretched the McNary lead in the third period. A six-point run by Ernest helped seal the win in the final minutes.
Madi Hingston had 10 points in the outing; Doutt and Sydney Hunter had six apiece; Lauren Hudgins had two.
“We’ve been playing a lot better lately. They’re getting comfortable with new coaches and they are getting more comfortable with each other,” Handley said. “What I’m hoping is to see that confidence continue as we come to the second half of the season.”
Flores said better communication and cohesive teamwork were at the top of her wish list for the coming weeks.
Consistent effort and not letting other teams slow McNary’s momentum would be key, said Montano.
“We always need to try our best in every game – even if we’re behind – because we don’t know what will happen if we do that,” she said.