McNary’s Jasmine Ernest dishes the ball to a teammate in the game with Forest Grove High School Friday, Jan. 30. McNary won 62-44. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

McNary’s Jasmine Ernest dishes the ball to a teammate in the game with Forest Grove High School Friday, Jan. 30. McNary won 62-44. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School girls varsity basketball team finished last week on a six-game win streak.

It was a prime spot to be in headed into a match with the Greater Valley Conference leaders, South Salem High School, Tuesday, Feb. 3.

“It’s honestly feeling really good. It helps with confidence and it’s preparing us. We’re playing like a team so well it’s crazy. We’re finally showing the team we can be,” said sophomore Sydney Hunter.

The team’s effort to improve communication is a large part of its recent streak, said senior Jasmine Ernest.

“We’ve improved exponentially with our off-court communication, but we also know where people are going to go and we’re able to read each other better on the court,” she said.

That familiarity helped the team leap out to an 11-0 start against Forest Grove High School Friday, Jan. 30. Earnest scored six of those points on treys in the opening salvo.

As the Vikings warmed up they notched some steals that helped them get back into the game. Forest Grove closed the scoring gap to three points in the first minute of the second frame, but Ernest got another three-pointer a few minutes later to extend the Celtic lead.

The big shot of the night came from Madi Hingston at the halftime buzzer. She hit a three-pointer from nearly half-court to put McNary up 11 points again.

“We knocked down the deep shots against them while they were in their zone,” said Derick Handley, McNary head coach. “That shot from Madi was a huge thing momentum and mentality-wise.”

For the most part, the Lady Celts rode at least a 10-point lead throughout the second half en route to a 62-44 win.

“In the second half, we decided it wasn’t a game we could take lightly and kept the pressure up,” Hunter said.

Earlier in the week, McNary held North Salem High School to 12 points in a 66-12 win. In its six-game streak, McNary has held three teams to 12-points or less. While it might be cause to take their foot off the gas, the Lady Celts have been using those games to prepare for the tougher offenses in the league.

“It’s a mental game then, not so much physical. It prepares us to go hard even when we’re winning by a lot and that’s a good thing,” Hunter said.

Handley said the North game gave the Celts time to work on a new full court press and it went off without a glitch for most of the first frame.

As the team’s confidence builds, Ernest said performing well against a team like South Salem – win or lose – is a matter or respect.

“We have teams that underestimate us. Forest Grove thought they were going to go 6-2 in league and now they are 5-5,” Ernest said. “We’re on the brink of getting the recognition we feel we deserve. This South Salem game is big just to prove that we can hang with the bigger teams and show our growth.”