Under heavy coverage, McNary’s Mathew Ismay looks for an open teammate in the game with West Albany High School Friday, Dec. 11. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Under heavy coverage, McNary’s Mathew Ismay looks for an open teammate in the game with West Albany High School Friday, Dec. 11. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Slow starts made for some intense moments but eventually led to a pair of wins for the McNary High School boys varsity basketball team last week.

“We started off a little slow and unprepared in both games, but we definitely fixed that as the second halves started,” said Alex Martin, a McNary junior.

The Celtics played Tualatin High School to a 56-43 win Tuesday, Dec. 8, then handed West Albany High School its most decisive defeat (58-40) so far this season Friday, Dec. 11.

“I think we made good adjustments in the second half of both games. We shared the ball well and defended well in the second halves,” said Celt senior Harry Cavell.

In the first frame of the game with the Timberwolves, McNary ran up a 10-point lead with the help of consistent shooting by junior Adam Harvey.

Tualatin kept pressure high, closed the gap and then took a 20-17 lead just after the start of the second period. The Timberwolves rode the surge out through the end of the half. The teams went to the locker room with McNary trailing 31-30.

“We had a competitive first half with Tualatin, but we gave up too many points,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach.

Celt Mathew Ismay tied the game from the foul line at the top of the third frame. Cade Goff put the Celts ahead on a two-point bucket.

After Martin struck from three-point range to make the score 38-36, McNary maintained the lead the rest of the night.

Cavell led the team on offense with 16 points. Harvey, who ended up under heavy coverage after his blistering start, finished with 10 points for the outing.

The Celts started out from behind and stayed there for much of the first half in the game with West Albany High School.

“We come out at the beginning and try to force stuff offensively when we could do more to move the ball with the pass, and that happens in almost every game,” said Cavell.

It wasn’t until the beginning of the second quarter that McNary found its legs on offense, beginning with two-point and three-point buckets by junior Easton Neitzel.

McNary finally overtook the Bulldogs at 5:12 in the second frame, but it was a short-lived lead. The half ended with a three-point buzzer-beater by Ismay that cut West’s lead to 25-22.

From the outset of the third quarter, it was a different game for McNary. Between strong attacks and stifling defense, the Celts outscored the Bulldogs 24-6.

“In the third quarter, we made the extra passes and made more balanced shots,” said Martin.

From that point onward, McNary controlled the pace and tone of the game to emerge with the win.

“We played how we envision ourselves playing,” Kirch said. “We were passing, attacking, running and trapping and it showed in the score.”

Cavell led scoring with 18 points. Neitzel added 17, including 4 of 6 from three-point range.

McNary’s opponents this week were North Salem High School Tuesday, Dec 15, and an as-yet undefeated, 10th-ranked Forest Grove High School team Friday, Dec. 18.

“We need to take care of both games as they happen, but Forest Grove is going to be a tough team for us,” Kirch said.

The Celts have two non-conference games slated early next week. They’ll host No. 18 Sherwood High School Monday, Dec. 21, then travel to meet No. 15 Central Catholic High School Tuesday, Dec. 22.

Cavell said he has high hopes for the game with the Rams.

“It’s a chance for us to have a coming out party and show that we are going to be one of the top five teams in the state,” he said. “I think it’s an opportunity to improve our power ranking, but just to have a win against Central Catholic would be big for us. I want us to give them a run for their money.”