By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
McNary head coach Derick Handley told his girls basketball team to keep playing hard even when shots weren’t falling or things weren’t going their way.
They listened as the Lady Celts came from behind to defeat West Albany 35-29 on Friday, Feb. 3.
“Tonight was a great example that they (West Albany) had a lead and we still played hard and if you do that long enough good things will start to happen for you,” Handley said.
The Lady Celts trailed 27-24 when the game turned with 2:10 remaining as McNary senior Sydney Hunter, playing with four fouls, stole the basketball, made a layup on the other end and was fouled.
“I was just trying to make contact because I knew we were down three,” Hunter said.
After Hunter knocked down the free throw to complete the 3-point play and tie the game 27-27, the McNary defense got a stop and Kailey Doutt passed the ball to Abigail Hawley, whose jump shot gave the Lady Celts a 29-27 lead with 1:34 remaining.
After West Albany senior Saylor Siegner made two free throws to even the score, Hunter missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but got a defensive rebound and went back to the line.
Hunter made the first free throw, missed the second but got the offensive rebound and the ball to Paige Downer, who was fouled.
Downer, who finished with nine points, then made four free throws in the final 41 seconds to seal the victory.
“I just told myself to relax,” Downer said. “Free throws win games. We’ve been focusing on that in practice.”
Downer led the McNary offense in the first half, scoring five points at the start of the second quarter to tie the game at 9-9.
“We really all just played confident,” Downer said. “We’ve been working together all week to push each other and hold each other accountable. We’ve been going so hard in practice. It all really paid off tonight.”
Kailey Doutt, who added seven points and eight rebounds in the win, then scored on a putback to give the Lady Celts their first lead, 11-9, with 4:58 remaining in the first half.
But West Albany responded and led 16-14 at halftime and 25-22 entering the fourth quarter.
The Lady Bulldogs made just one field goal and scored only four points in the final period.
Hunter, who didn’t score her first basket until a layup with 1:03 remaining in the first half but added 11 in the second to finish with 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven steals, said the key to the win was having a short memory.
“We just have to forget about it and move on to the next shot because we can’t do anything about it,” Hunter said. “Definitely, our mental toughness has grown.”
McNary also evened the season score with the Lady Bulldogs, who it lost to on the road 48-41 back in December to begin league play.
Handley noted the Lady Celts did a better job against West Albany’s size and zone defense.
“They really tried to pack the key on us,” Handley said. “They challenged our guards to take shots. I think our guards did a better job this game of being willing to attack. We shared the ball really well. The adjustments we needed to make was No. 1 ball fakes but No. 2 if you feel two bodies coming to you, it’s ball fake and make the extra pass and I think our ball movement especially in the paint got a lot better in the second half as well.”
That started with Downer, who Handley said had the best game of her career.
“She was complete,” Handley said. “She was great on defense. She was our best guard rebounder tonight. She was smart with the basketball. She was our one guard, especially early, that was willing to dribble drive into the zone to draw defenders and she was doing it with purpose to get a teammate open. She was really what made us go.”