McNary falls flat in playoff opener

Noah Hudkins

Once you enter the postseason, it’s crucial to bring your A-game, especially when playing on the road.

It was clear that McNary didn’t do that on Thursday, Feb. 28.

The 48 points that the Celtics scored was their second lowest output of the season as they fell to ninth-ranked South Eugene by a score of 54-48 in the first round of the state playoffs, effectively ending their season.

“We battled as best as we could, things just didn’t fall our way,” McNary senior Noah Hudkins said. “In the end, the only thing we can look back on is ourselves. We can’t blame anyone else.”

McNary turned the ball over three times in the first two minutes and missed their first 10 shots of the game.

Finally, Riley Flores was able to get the Celtics going with a 3-pointer from the corner with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter, cutting the South Eugene lead to 7-5.

However, the Axe rallied by responding with a 9-0 run to push their advantage to 16-5 early in the second period.

McNary head coach Ryan Kirch acknowledged that one of the reasons there was such sloppy play on both sides was due to the weather throwing things off.

McNary and South Eugene were originally scheduled to play on Tuesday. But because of the snow, the game was first rescheduled for Wednesday, then was moved to Thursday.

Both teams were also forced to miss multiple practices over the course of the week.

“I think it probably did affect us … That was about the ugliest first half of basketball we’ve ever seen,” Kirch said. “Everyone was out of rhythm, shots weren’t falling. Everyone was just off a little bit.”

“I thought we weren’t as mentally engaged as we hoped to be.”

McNary got a three-point play from Griffin Oliveira and back-to-back buckets from Boston Smith — who was the only Celtic player in double-figures with 19 points. But the McNary offense still struggled mightily to get anything going as they found themselves down at halftime 25-15.

But when the third quarter began, the Celtics looked like a new team.

Oliveira and Nate Meithof hit triples on back-to-back possessions to get McNary within four. Then, a transition layup from Smith completed an 8-0 McNary run to cut the deficit to 27-25 and force South Eugene head coach Dave Hancock to burn a timeout.

“We did a great job, as we have all year, with fighting back,” Kirch said.

After another hoop from Smith on an offensive rebound, Hudkins gave the Celtics their first lead of the game with a beautiful jump hook in the lane.

“We had the mindset and energy that we were going to come back,” Hudkins said. “We were sharing the ball really well and we started knocking down shots.”

The lead however, was short-lived as South Eugene responded by going on a 9-4 run and took a 37-33 advantage into the final period.

McNary still continued to battle, in large part due to the incredible effort of Smith.

Smith has been dealing with a nagging knee injury since January and appeared to be in serious pain throughout the final 16 minutes.

But the senior post fought hard to keep his team in the game with 14 points in the second half.

“Boston could barely walk,” Kirch said. “With the pain that he was in, to go out there and play for his teammates, not a lot of players would do that.”

But in the end, it still wasn’t enough. A pair of turnovers late in the game thwarted McNary’s comeback attempt as South Eugene was able to ice the game with nine points from the charity stripe in the final moments.

“Our guys left every ounce of what they had out on the floor,” Kirch said.

“I’m sad that it’s over, mainly because this group doesn’t get to be together anymore. But what I appreciate the most about this group was the fun they had playing together.”