By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
In one of the McNary High School boys varsity basketball team’s most controlled wins in years, the Celts handily defeated the Forest Grove Vikings 76-62 Friday, Dec. 18.
The victory sent the Keizer team soaring up the state rankings to sixth in the OSAA 6A classification.
“Forest Grove is a very talented team, but our kids have practiced and prepared with a sense of purpose that they can win regardless of the situation. They’re not arrogant or cocky, but they are very confident in their abilities and have a strong belief in themselves,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach. “It was just beautiful to watch them at times tonight.”
The Celtics started the game with a 5-0 lead but soon found themselves trailing the Vikings 12-5. Three-point goals by Harry Cavell, Easton Neitzel and Alex Martin help close the gap to 23-18 by the close of the frame, but Forest Grove still led.
A three-pointer by Chandler Cavell kept the Vikings within reach shortly after the beginning of the second period. Coupled with another trey by Martin, McNary then kept the game close. The Celts finally retook the game lead with a two-point goal by H. Cavell with 3:30 to go in the half.
The Vikings took the lead back on their next possession. As the clock was winding down, C. Cavell scored his second three-point goal of the night to give McNary a 41-40 lead and then H. Cavell made a steal and scored on a dunk to give McNary a 43-40 lead going into halftime.
“We shut down (Taylor) Jensen, who is one of the leaing scorers in the state right now, but they had a lot of other guys step up,” said Mathew Ismay. “The only problem was we gave up 40 in the first half, which isn’t something we want to do.”
The second half was all McNary from the get-go. The Celtics scored seven unanswered points at the top of the third frame, five by Ismay.
With limited trips to the foul line, the Keizer boys outscored the Vikings 33-22. Until the Forest Grove match, the Celts had relied on making trips to the foul line to win close games, but only got one in the fourth period this time around.
“We came out strong in the second half and really executed. On defense we played hard and shut down their better players,” said Neitzel.
Kirch said the game came down to some key performances in a strong team effort.
“Mathew doesn’t always get the cheers when you have dunks and three-pointers, but he’s a kid who very rarely makes mistakes. He’s fundamentally sound, he doesn’t turn the ball over, he doesn’t take bad shots, and he was a quiet leader tonight,” said Kirch.
He also lauded the efforts of the Cavell brothers.
“Harry came in and improved on his game by leaps and bounds and really showed what he’s made of. Chandler also came in and played fearlessly. That can be good or bad when it comes to taking shots, but it was mostly a good thing tonight,” Kirch said.
Neitzel said the key to moving forward was keeping an even keel like the team has done so far this season.
“We have to keep being unselfish and keep playing as a team with great chemistry,” Neitzel said.
Ismay said the Celtics were able to build on a strong 72-35 win over North Salem High School three days earlier.
“That was the first time this season when we put it all together for 32 minutes,” Ismay said. “People are starting to notice us and, if we can keep this roll going, we’re going to have a hell of a season.”