By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
SALEM—The game started just like most of McNary’s.
Celtics win the tip, Matthew Ismay bounces a perfect pass to an open Easton Neitzel, who scores an easy layup to give McNary a quick 2-0 lead.
It ended much differently as the Celtics, who came into West Salem averaging 76 points per game and had hit at least 80 six times, were held to a season low in a 56-47 loss.
“Their zone slowed us down and we didn’t attack and look to score as much as we usually do,” McNary senior Cade Goff said. “They put some long guys up top and slowed our game down and we played more into their hands instead of how we play.”
The Titans jumped out to a 15-4 lead as McNary didn’t score another field goal after Neitzel’s layup until Goff knocked down a 3-pointer with 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Celtics didn’t make a shot from the floor in the second quarter until the 5:32 mark when Goff hit another 3 to get McNary within 18-12.
“We settled for some shots early where we could have probably been a little more aggressive getting to the rim,” McNary head coach Ryan Kirch said.
“Give them credit. I thought they dictated the tempo of the game a little bit more than we wanted to. And we were just never quite in rhythm.”
Despite struggling on the offensive end, the Celtics only trailed 22-18 at the half.
“It was probably the ugliest first half that we’ve played,” Kirch said. “Of all the games we play, we may have two or three halves like that all year. We just happened to have two of them tonight and not the place you want to have it.”
Ismay opened the second half with a layup to get within 22-20 but West Salem drained a 3-pointer and then stretched its lead to 35-26 before McNary closed the second half on a 6-0 run and trailed by only three entering the fourth quarter.
Neitzel and Chandler Cavell both went 1-for-2 from the free throw line to get the Celtics within a point but the Titans scored seven straight and put away McNary by going 12-for-14 from the free throw line in the final 3:20.
“The biggest thing for us is we just didn’t guard the ball very well,” Kirch said. “Really they beat us at what we try to do at teams. We got in foul trouble and then they beat us at the free throw line late. We kept some of their scorers from scoring on the outside. We just fouled way too much and they were able to bleed the clock out and hit some free throws late and that was the difference.”
Goff and Cavell each had 13 points in the loss. Ismay added 10, six rebounds and six assists.
“Give credit to them (West Salem) for doing a nice job and switching up their defenses,” Kirch said. “For whatever reason occasionally a team has a night like this where things just never quite get going. I thought we battled. I thought we just uncharacteristically played a little passive and that let to a lower shooting percentage than we’re used to and certainly more turnovers than we’re accustomed to.”
On Tuesday, Jan. 10, McNary rebounded with a n 85-62 win at McKay, holding the Royal Scots 25 points below their game average.
Celtics return home on Friday, Jan. 13 at 7:15 p.m. against McMinnville.