McNary’s Kaelie Flores heads for the rim in the game with Sheldon High School. The girls beat the then-No. 1 OSAA 6A team 75-57. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

McNary’s Kaelie Flores heads for the rim in the game with Sheldon High School. The girls beat the then-No. 1 OSAA 6A team 75-57. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School girls varsity basketball team took most everyone by surprise in a 75-57 win over Sheldon High School Saturday, Dec. 19, themselves included.

“It was kind of a surprise to be winning but, by the end of the game we were like, ‘Oh, this is us and who we are as a team,’” said Kaelie Flores, a Celtic senior.

Going into the game, Sheldon was the top-ranked team in the OSAA 6A division, McNary moved up to No. 14 with the win.

McNary hosted the match-up and started out with a seven-point run that included two two-point goals by Flores and a three-pointer by Madi Hingston.

The Keizer girls carried that lead into the second frame and lost it only briefly midway through the quarter. After falling behind 26-24, sophomore Kailey Doutt hit a two-pointer to knot the game 26-26. The Lady Celts would trail through the end of the half, but a final bucket by Reina Strand sent the teams to halftime with the Fighting Irish leading 35-33.

“We started doing things a bit different even in the pre-game warm-ups and that made for a good start,” said Strand.

By midway through the fourth quarter, the Lady Celts had a 19-point lead over the Irish. McNary spent much of the late minutes at the foul line making free baskets. Sheldon didn’t get many opportunities offensively in the second half and McNary kept them from offensive rebounds. Sheldon scored only 12 points in about 12 minutes spanning the third and fourth quarters, an atypical output for a team accustomed to running up 60 to 70 points per game on opponents.

“We scouted them and practiced what they run,” said Hingston. “We knew our game plan and locked down on defense.”

Strand said the only hiccup in the night was some lax help-side defense in the first half.

“We realized we had to focus on help-side, but we all came together and fixed that right away. It was great,” she said. “Other than that, we focused in on who we had to guard after studying them and their plays.”

McNary had two games prior to facing off with Sheldon and won both easily. McNary handed North Salem High School a 69-9 drubbing Tuesday, Dec. 15, and then pasted Forest Grove High School with a 49-24 loss.

Derick Handley, McNary head coach, said the team hasn’t encountered any surprises in recent games, the result of scouting teams and the Lady Celts’ buy-in when it comes to taking care of business.

“There’s often times we’re not surprised. Forest Grove had 11 points through three quarters,” Handley said. “The one thing about our girls is they are very studious about the game, and they are taking what we learn before each game and applying it when they’re playing.”

Handley had hoped to finally crack the OSAA 6A Top 10 with the Sheldon win, but the powers-that-be apparently weren’t in a giving mood this holiday season.

“There’s not a ton of respect for the GVC in the state and that’s just the way it is. What we’re trying to help the girls prove, as coaches, is that we are ready to compete at this level of basketball,” Handley said. “What’s important for us is winning the non-conference games. We have to prop ourselves up and take care of ourselves when we get the chances.”

No matter what the future holds, Flores said the team is ready.

“We are really underestimated as a team and this win (over Sheldon) was our chance to go out and prove that,” Flores said.