By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

Paige Downer remembers what it was like to play on the varsity team as a freshman.

“I didn’t feel confident,” Downer said. “I was intimated by all the older girls.”

As one of four seniors on McNary’s girls basketball team, Downer wants to make sure that these four freshmen are more comfortable. That should be easier since Downer played with them through the Keizer Youth Basketball Association.

“It’s just been a blast getting to know all of these girls,” Downer said. “We work so well together. And I think that will definitely come to our advantage.”

McNary senior Kailey Doutt also knows the four freshmen well. One of them, Leah Doutt, is her sister.

“My parents coached all of the freshman from fifth grade to eighth grade so I know them all really well,” Kailey said. “They’re all like my little sisters so I’m super excited that they’re here and I actually have my little sister on the team. I think they’ll do really well.”

Liz Doran, the Lady Celts new head coach, expects all four freshmen, Doutt, Kennedy Buss, Mackenzie Proctor and Annie-Leigh Besa, to contribute to both the varsity and JV teams.

“This freshmen class is strong,” Doran said. “All of them are going to swing (between varsity and JV) a little bit, some more than others. I think as the year goes on some of the freshmen will really step up and get more into that (varsity) rotation.”

McNary returns three starters in Downer, Doutt and junior Abbie Hawley. Junior Sabella Alfaro, who played on the varsity team last year, is also back.

The Lady Celts lost one player, Anita Lao, via transfer, but gained another in Emma Kinler, who comes to McNary from Willamette Valley Christian.

Kinler has played softball at McNary since Willamette Valley Christian doesn’t have a team. She was an all-league outfielder last season.

“The girls are really buying into everything that I’m saying,” Doran said. “They practice really hard for me. They’re a good group and they’re going to be fun to coach.”

With no girl taller than 5-foot-9, the Lady Celts are also small.

“We’re going to have to run the floor,” Doran said. “We’re going to have to be scrappy. We don’t have a lot of size. No bigs in the entire program. I think we can create matchup problems for people though. We’re going to play five guards, pretty much.”

Doran also wants the girls to be louder, especially on the defensive end.

“We have really nice girls and they’ll politely say something,” Doran said.

“They have to yell at each other and tell each other where to go. We don’t have time to be polite and say it nicely.”

The Lady Celts spent Saturday, Nov. 18 at the coast for team bonding and then attended the Oregon State University women’s basketball game against Notre Dame on Sunday, Nov. 19.

“We’ve got a really solid group,” Doran said. “We’re young. It’s kind of a fun mix. I saw some of the freshmen come out of their shell and I think it was just good to get everybody together outside of basketball.”

McNary opened the season Thursday, Nov. 30 at Barlow.

The Lady Celts host Tualatin Saturday, Dec. 2 and Newberg Tuesday, Dec. 5. Both home games tip off at 7 p.m.

“I think what we look like at the beginning of the year is going to be drastically different, I’m hoping, from the end of the year, because we’re pretty young and I think they’ll develop throughout the year,” Doran said.

“I think we can start off strong though, too.”