McNary senior Sydney Hunter had 17 points and 10 rebounds Saturday against Sprague.

By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary’s girls basketball team has found the key to success—playing together.

In a 52-44 win over McMinnville on Friday, Jan. 13, four different girls scored at least nine points and the Lady Celts dished out 11 assists.

The following night, in a 52-30 victory against Sprague, five girls scored at least seven points to go along with 15 assists.

“I just think the chemistry part, we’ve finally figured it out,” senior Sydney Hunter said. “We’re playing as a team. We’re finally playing as five, not just individuals and that’s helped us a lot. We’ll drive and we know that we’ll have somebody right by the basket to dish off and that’s definitely helped us.”

With the two wins, McNary improved to 4-2 in the Greater Valley Conference after opening league play 1-2.

“It was a big week for us,” MHS head coach Derick Handley said. “The biggest thing is we’re starting to trust each other a little bit more. We talked before the season started that we’re going to rely on a lot of girls that haven’t really been relied on in the past. I think they’re starting to understand their roles. I think they’re starting to get confidence and I also think that Kailey (Doutt) and Sydney, who have led us in scoring, are realizing that they don’t have to do it alone and that there’s more people that can help us out. It’s been much more balanced. Our scoring is becoming a lot more evenly distributed, which is the key to us being successful this year.”

Fast starts have also helped the Lady Celts, who led McMinnville 18-4 at the end of the first quarter. The Grizzlies got within three points of McNary in the fourth quarter but back-to-back 3s sealed the Lady Celts victory.

“They (McMinnville) made a couple of runs but I think it asserted a lot of energy for them to do it and we stay composed,” Handley said.

Hunter and Abigail Hawley each had 12 points to lead McNary. Doutt added 11 and Paige Downer finished with nine.

The Lady Celts then jumped out to a 23-0 lead against Sprague before the Lady Olympians made their first basket midway through the second quarter.

Sprague scored eight points in the period but McNary entered halftime with a commanding 29-8 lead.

“We put in a new pressure defense a couple weeks ago and it takes repetition and getting used to where you’re supposed to fall in different circumstances,” Handley said. “We stuck with it knowing that it was going to generate starts like that for us. The girls are just working really hard and I think they’re also realizing that you give yourself a little bit of a padding like that, it’s a little easier to play the next 30 minutes.”

The Lady Celts added to their lead in the third. McNary then emptied its bench in the fourth quarter.

Hunter finished with a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds. Doutt and Anita Lao both had eight points. Hawley and Jaylene Montano each added seven.

McNary plays at South Salem (12-3, 5-0) on Tuesday, against McDonald’s All-American and University of Tennessee-bound Evina Westbrook. The game tips off at 6:45 p.m.