By MATT RAWLINGS

Of the Keizertimes

The McNary girls basketball team faced one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the state this season. 

Even though they only won two of their 10 preseason contests, the tough competition prepared them for what they would face in Mountain Valley Conference play.

In a game that went down to the wire, McNary proved that they were the more battle-tested squad.

Leah Doutt led the way for McNary with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field as the Celtics pulled off the upset at West Salem on Friday, Jan. 11, defeating the Titans 42-39.

Abilgail Hawley was also in double-figures with 10 points.

“(West Salem) is really tough team that put a lot of defensive pressure on us, so I was really proud of how we stayed composed throughout the game,” McNary head coach Elizabeth Doran said. “Early on in the season we weren’t winning a lot of games, but I could tell that we were getting better and now it’s coming to fruition.”

The game couldn’t have started much better for the Celtics as they began the opening period on a 7-0 run thanks to a jumper from Annie Leigh Besa, followed by a 3-pointer from Hawley. 

McNary extended their lead to 14-4 by the end of the first quarter after back-to-back hoops from Doutt and another bucket from Hawley.

“The key for us was being able to break the press and handle their defensive pressure,” Doutt said. “We were able to get around their defenders and take good shots.”

West Salem, however, came roaring back in the second quarter, going on a 14-2 run to take a 18-16 lead late in the period. 

“We kind of went cold offensively in the second quarter,” Doran said.

Mackenzie Proctor made the only shot for the Celtics in the second period, burying a mid-range jumper with less than a minute left to tie the game at 18 going into the break.

After both teams traded baskets for the majority of the third quarter, McNary started to get the slight edge when they ended the period on a 6-0 run. A runner from Doutt, paired with four straight points by Hawley, gave the Celtics a 31-26 advantage with eight minutes remaining in the game.

The Titans, though, refused to say die, trimming their deficit down to two points on multiple occasions in the final period. But in each instance, Doutt made sure to keep West Salem at arm’s length. 

The senior point guard knocked down three buckets in the fourth quarter, but her most clutch play came on defense when her team was up 37-35 with 1:10 left in the game.

West Salem had the ball and was looking to either tie or take the lead when Doutt forced a steal at the top of the key, led the Celtics on the fast break and gave a beautiful feed to Kennedy Buss, who finished the easy layup to put McNary on top 39-35 with under a minute remaining.

“My teammates did a good job of getting open and setting screens for me so I could get to the basket,” Doutt said. “

A trio of missed free throws down the stretch allowed the Titans to cut the lead to one at 40-39 with 16 seconds left of the clock. But after West Salem fouled Leigh Besa with 8.6 seconds remaining, the sophomore forward calmly stepped to the charity stripe and knocked down two shots to put her team up by three.

“I was a mess in my head, but I just stepped to the line and took deep breath and I told myself that I had this,” Leigh Besa said.

West Salem tried a desperation shot at the horn that was well contested by the McNary defense. 

The shot never had a chance and didn’t even draw iron, which sent the Celtics into celebration mode.

“It was really exciting to get that win,” Leigh Besa said. “It showed that we can compete and go up against these big teams.”

McNary goes on the road to take on McKay at 7:15 p.m.