By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary head coach Ryan Kirch has challenged his team’s competitiveness and toughness since the Celtics opened the season in late November.

“I thought last week we got there,” Kirch said. “We played five games in seven days against five really good opponents. Going 2-3 is one thing but I thought we got tougher. One thing we realized is we just have to execute better.”

Down five points at halftime, that competitiveness, toughness and execution all came together as McNary topped previously unbeaten Tualatin 72-58 on Wednesday, Dec. 27.

“The toughness and competitiveness has now become our fall back and our habit,” Kirch said. “I’m real proud, to be able to get the lead and extend the lead and win going away. We’ve came a long ways in six and half weeks.”

The Celtics jumped out to an 18-11 lead against Tualatin, who entered the game 8-0 and No. 2 in the 6A OSAA Power Rankings. But the Timberwolves made three 3-pointers in the second quarter to take a 34-29 lead into halftime.

Running Tualatin off the 3-point arc was something McNary had talked about before the game.

“We had a little lapse in the second quarter,” Kirch said. “We challenged them and got after them at halftime. We didn’t change our game plan. Everything was what we thought they were going to do and how we wanted to guard it. We thought a lot of their shooters couldn’t really drive with the exception of the point guard. Guys just buckled down when they were tired and competed and were both physically and mentally tough tonight and that was the difference.”

The Timberwolves made just one 3-pointer in the second half.

“I think we just defended really well,” McNary senior Andrew Jones said. I think we all just communicated well and forced them to take tough shots. They had been a really good outside shooting team for the most part so we tried to force them to go inside more and I think we did a pretty good job of that in the second half. They weren’t able to get easy looks.”

Jones scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, including a 3-pointer to give the Celtics a 43-42 lead with 2:49 remaining in the third quarter.

“With Chandler (Cavell) being double teamed because he’s just tough inside and Lucas (Garvey being face guarded because he’s just a good shooter, it created open lanes for me,” Jones said. “It was just an attribute to my teammates, really. I was able to get open looks because those guys were so heavily guarded.”

Jones scored four more points at the beginning of the fourth period to stretch McNary’s lead to 54-48 with 5:47 remaining.

“Andrew last year was really frustrated and rightfully so, he didn’t play a lot,” Kirch said. “Sometimes you can handle that a couple of ways, you can pout, you can complain or you can keep your mouth shut. I know he was frustrated with me and I get that as a competitor. He spent a lot of time in the weight room and a lot of time just wanting to be good and enjoy his senior year. Every time I’m in the gym, I see him in the gym. Coach (Jordan) Graneto mentioned it at the end of the game how much he controlled the game in the second half and that’s important for us.

“Teams right now are focusing on Chandler and they did in the second half and face guarding Lucas and Andrew is able to get to the rim and score. I thought he did a great job defensively. I didn’t give him much of a break if at all. His leadership tonight was great. He’s certainly risen to the challenge. He’s a guy that you want leading your team going into a fight. He’s not afraid of anybody and he’ll go against anybody and tonight he just did a great job. I’m just real proud of him. He’s just real tough, both ways.”

Garvey scored 10 of his team leading 21 points in the fourth quarter as McNary grew its advantage to as many as 15 points.

Garvey made only one 3-pointer, scoring most of his points in the paint.

“Teams have been really focusing on Lucas so he hasn’t shot well from the outside so we tried to put some things in where we had him going to the rim a little bit,” Kirch said. “We told him, ‘You’re more than just a shooter, you’re a scorer.’”

Garvey also guarded Tualatin’s best player, senior Alexis Angeles, last year’s Three Rivers League Player of the Year, limiting him to 18 points.

“One of the things people didn’t see tonight was how well he defended,” Kirch said of Garvey. “That kid (Angeles) was player of the year in the toughest conference in the state as a junior. He was second team all-state and Lucas did a phenomenal job on him. They had to earn everything they got. Great players are going to get their points but you’ve got to make them earn them.”

Cavell had 15 points in the victory. Riccardo Gardelli and Boston Smith each added eight points.

The Celtics plays at Sheldon on Friday, Dec. 29 at 7 p.m. McNary then returns to league play on Tuesday, Jan. 2 at Forest Grove at 6:45 p.m.

“Now we know what we can be and we can still get better,” Kirch said. “We still have lots to work on situationally. There’s a lot of confidence with our group right now because they’ve done it and they feel good about it. I feel like they’re experienced now and now we just keep getting better.”