By MATT RAWLINGS

Of the Keizertimes

Even though they weren’t at full strength, the McNary boys hoops team put together a valiant effort against Newberg on Saturday night. But the Celtics couldn’t climb back into the game after falling behind by 21 in the fourth quarter and eventually lost 67-57 in the Newberg Boys Basketball Tournament Championship game.

“I’m disappointed that we lost, but I’m encouraged at some of the things we showed with our toughness and competitiveness,” McNary head coach Ryan Kirch said. “Sometimes shots don’t fall and you come out on the losing end…Being down a couple of bodies made it really challenging for us at times.”

McNary was without two of their best players in Junior Walling and Griffin Oliveira. Walling has missed the last few contests due to injury, while Oliveira was not present due to “family stuff and prior engagements” according to Kirch.

David Boston and Nate Meithof each had 23 points to carry the Celtics offensively, but in the end, McNary didn’t get enough help from the rest of their supporting cast.

“We have a lot of leaders who lead in different ways and Griff is a guy that a lot of guys look to,” Kirch said. “You can’t replace him and you can’t replace Junior’s strength and his rebounding ability on the inside.”

“It did give some opportunity for some other guys to get minutes and I thought they did some good things and competed well. We just fell a little short.”

Smith got things going in the opening period with eight points on 3-of-4 shooting from the field as the Celtics trailed just 14-12 at the end of the quarter.

However, it appeared that McNary couldn’t buy a bucket in the second quarter. The Celtics settled for several contested jumpers and couldn’t get out in transition, which led to them only scoring four points in the period, causing them to fall behind 26-16 at half. 

Meithof had the only field goal of the second quarter on a put-back layup with 2:50 left in the half.

“We weren’t on top of things offensively,” Meithof said. “We moved the ball well, but we weren’t getting to the hoop.”

Kirch also added: “We were getting back on our heels in the first half and running our offense 35 feet from the basket.”

Things went from bad to worse for the Celtics as the game looked to be getting out of hand in the second half. After McNary ended the third quarter trailing 47-32, Newberg center Kyle Kruse knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to start the final period, giving his team the largest lead of the game.

It would have been easy for the Celtics to give up at this point. But they weren’t quite ready to throw in the towel. 

McNary put on a devastating full-court press on Newberg, defending with an intensity that wasn’t present for most of the game.

The suffocating defense helped create turnovers into offensive opportunities as the Celtics went on a 12-0 run thanks to a pair of triples by Meithof and a floater by Devyn Schurr. 

“We just competed hard in our press and didn’t worry about the score,” Kirch said. “A lot of them were gassed, but they didn’t stop.”

“We talked about how, at the end, we were playing as the aggressor in that situation and that mindset is what we need from the get-go.”

The 12-0 scamper by the Celtics got the lead down to single-digits at 53-44 with 3:48 left and forced Newberg head coach Mark Brown to call a timeout. 

Out of the timeout, McNary set up their press and looked they were about to get a steal before a reach-in foul was called on Schurr. 

Schurr let his emotions get the best of him after the call and was immediately whistled for a technical foul. Newberg was awarded two free throws for the personal foul, two more for the technical and was given back possession of the ball. 

It ended up being a five-point trip for Newberg, which was too much for McNary to come back from. 

McNary is currently competing in the Arby’s Holiday Classic in South Medford. They return home on Friday Jan. 4 to take on Forest Grove at 7:15 p.m. in their final non-league matchup.