McNary’s Reina Strand puts up a shot during the game with the Kamehameha Warriors Saturday, Dec. 5. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

McNary’s Reina Strand puts up a shot during the game with the Kamehameha Warriors Saturday, Dec. 5. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School girls varsity basketball team started its season with a 36-33 win over Hawaii’s Kamehameha High School Saturday, Dec. 5.

It was the first time in more than a year the Lady Celts won a game with a single-digit lead.

“I liked how aggressive (Kamehameha was) because it’s what we’re going to see coming from the other teams this season,” said Derick Handley, McNary head coach. “We played lights out man-to-man and that was a result of tremendous efforts on the part of our posts and good rotations all around.”

The Kamehameha team is the equivalent of a Jesuit-type school in terms of size and program strength in Hawaii, which was one of the reasons Handley scheduled the match.

The Warriors had won a game the previous night with more than 50 points, but defensive efforts on the part of the Celtics bottled up Kamehameha shooters, particularly late in the game.

Kamehameha started the game with a 5-0 lead, but a bucket by senior Madi Hingston and two by Sydney Hunter put the Keizer team back in control. McNary held onto the lead until midway through the second quarter when the Warriors knotted the score 15-15 with 4:53 to go in the half.

“The good thing was that Handley knew their coach and we knew they would be a high-intensity team going into it,” said Celt Kailey Doutt.

A three-pointer by Kamehameha put it in the lead briefly, but a pair of shots by Celt Kaelie Flores put McNary ahead again.

In the third frame, a pair of shots from the foul line by Hingston gave McNary a four-point lead, but scrappy play by the Warriors allowed them to tie the game again, this time at 25-25. McNary regained the lead on a two-point shot by Celt Jaylene Montano with a minute to go in the quarter.

In the fourth quarter, McNary shot its last five points of the night from the foul line. The Warriors got off a three-pointer four seconds from the final buzzer for the final score.

“I think it was a great first game because they were a really tough team,” said Montano. “It set us up for the season ahead to know where we can be this in the league and in the state playoffs.”

The one hiccup in the Celtics’ gameplan for the night was ball security. While McNary limited turnovers to six in the first half, some individual players had six turnovers on their own in the second half, Handley said.

“We have been preaching being aggressive to the basket all season and that’s what the girls were doing. Now we have to pull back a little bit. It was a problem, but a fixable problem, and I’d rather be in this position than having to amp them up,” Handley said.

After focusing on defense in practices running up to the first game, Doutt said she was happy to see the payoff against the Warriors.

“Our defense was very good and it was defensive game. We also had good help defense and that’s something we’ve been working on,” Doutt said.