Celts rally for key non-league victory

Kenzie Proctor was in double-figures with 12 points as the Celtics got a 56-52 win over North Medford on Friday, Jan. 3 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

In their last non-conference game before Mountain Valley Conference play, the McNary girls basketball team got clutch performances from multiple sources.

The Celtics had four players in double-figures — including Bekah Grimmer, who led the way with 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting — allowing McNary to pull out a gutsy 56-52 overtime win over North Medford on Friday, Jan. 3.

Leah Doutt had 14 points and seven assists while Kenzie Proctor added 12 points and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. Kylie Nepstad added 10 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

“Everyone is stepping up and realizing that it takes a team effort to win. Things weren’t really clicking at first, but we pulled it out when it mattered. Our girls wanted it more than they did, which was good to see,” McNary head coach Elizabeth Doran said. 

North Medford started the game in a 1-2-2 zone, which proved to be a challenge for the Celtics as they struggled to get good looks at the basket in the early going. Doutt, as well as Kennedy Buss were each able to knock down triples, but North Medford still held a 10-7 lead at the end of the opening period. 

The Black Tornado extended their lead to 20-11 late in the second quarter. But in the last three minutes of the period, McNary found some success in transition.

A jumper from Nepstad and a fast-break layup by Doutt cut the lead to five. Grimmer and Proctor would get in on the action moments later to trim the deficit down to one.

After getting a steal before the end of the half, Doutt hit Proctor for an easy layup to give McNary their first lead of the game at 23-21.

“We were pretty stagnant offensively. Their zone was definitely bothering us in the first half. We weren’t really making their defense commit, we were just passing the ball around the perimeter,” Doran said. “But we talked about how, even when we’re facing a zone, we still need to be in attack mode and make the defense step up.”

The Celtics, however, couldn’t recreate the momentum they found late in the first half when they started the third quarter. The Black Tornado scored 14 of the first 16 points of the second half to go up by 10 points with 2:37 remaining in the third quarter. 

McNary was able to respond with an 8-2 run, thanks to a pair of jumpers from Nepstad — who scored all 10 of her points on mid-range shots.

“I have definitely been working on my 17-footers, but I was mainly just trying to find gaps in the defense and just be confident in my shot,” Nepstad said. 

North Medford held onto their lead for most of the fourth quarter. But despite being down 46-40 with 2:30 remaining, the Celtics refused to give in, going on a 6-0 run to tie the game with 1:06 left in regulation.

Grimmer knocked down four free throws during the stretch after drawing fouls on the inside on a pair of Celtics possessions.

“Bekah was super helpful in the middle for us. She has been really consistent for us this year. I have always known she has had it in her, but I think she has the confidence now on the offensive and defensive end,” Doran said.

A steal by Proctor gave with less than 30 seconds remaining gave the Celtics a chance to win the game in regulation. Doutt had an open look at the buzzer, but the shot fell short and the game headed to overtime with the score tied at 46.

But in the end, McNary was the more energetic team, and it showed down the stretch. The Celtics went on a 6-0 run to begin the overtime and their stifling defense proved to be a difference maker late in the game.

“We worked well as a team and our communication really helped us on defense,” Nepstad said. 

McNary travels to Summit for their MVC opener on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m.