Riley Flores (11) gets a Canby defender back on his heels with a jab-step and then looks to go the rim in McNary’s 66-60 victory (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
It appeared that all of the momentum had swung in Canby’s favor at the end of regulation.
Canby guard Diego Arredondo nailed a wild, off-balance 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to tie the game at 50 and force overtime.
But in the extra session, it was the McNary boys hoops squad that proved to be the more collected team down the stretch.
The Celtics outscored their opponent 16-10 in the four-minute overtime as McNary came away with a gritty 66-60 road victory against the Cougars on Friday, Dec. 3.
Even though this is a young McNary group, head coach Ryan Kirch believes that they already have shown significant growth so far in this young season.
“Most of the time when you see a team make a crazy three like that with their home crowd going crazy, I would say 95 percent of the time that team ends up winning the game. I was really proud of our maturity and growth in the overtime to withstand that shot and stay composed,” Kirch said.
“When everyone is ready to go and mentally engaged, we have a lot of depth and we can be really good. Our guys compete and fight for one another.”
While multiple guys made big plays that proved to be key late in the game, the offensive outburst from McNary guard Nate Meithof was the thing that stood out most for the Celts.
Meithof went off for 36 points — with 23 of them coming in the second half — and capped off his night with a highlight reel jam that would have rivaled any play made on SportsCenter’s Top 10 list.
It was Meithof’s fifth straight game over 30 points.
“I just work on my game every day and it’s really been showing,” Meithof said.
McNary held onto a 14-13 lead at the end of the first period thanks to a four-point play from Jaime Ochoa in the final minute of the quarter.
Canby came back to take the lead in the second quarter, but back-to-back triples from Riley Flores put the Celtics on top 27-25 at the break.
McNary came out of halftime firing on all cylinders to begin the second half. After Meithof broke free for a couple of transition buckets to extend the lead to six, freshman point guard Jando Gonzalez knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Celtics their largest lead at 37-25.
Canby, however, went on a 10-0 run of their own to get the lead back within two late in the period. A deep trey by Meithof put a halt to the Cougars run.
McNary kept their lead intact throughout the entire fourth quarter. The Celtics were on the verge of putting the game on ice when Meithof hit a pair of free throws to make the score 49-44 with 35 seconds left.
But Arredondo wasn’t ready for his Canby team to give up just yet. The junior guard converted on a deep 3-pointer to cut the lead to two with 26.2 seconds left.
Meithof was fouled quickly when McNary inbounded the ball, but he could only hit one of two free throws, keeping it a one-possession game with 20 seconds left.
Canby air-balled a pair of shots on the ensuing possession, but each time they were able to corral the offensive rebound. After a hectic 20 seconds, Canby head coach Craig Evans elected to call timeout with 3.5 left on the clock to draw up the final shot of regulation.
Despite the ensuing play being well defended, Arredondo was still able to knock down the contested three to send the game in the overtime as Canby faithful celebrated wildly.
It would have been easy for the Celtics to hang their head at the blown opportunity. But instead, the Celtics kept on putting the pressure on the Cougars.
In the first possession of overtime, Gonzalez completed a nifty three-point play to put McNary back on top. After a Canby bucket, Meithof came back down the court and hit his fourth triple from the top of the key. Moments later, Meithof weaved through two defenders and finished off the glass to get the lead to 58-52.
“We kept the pressure up and we were a lot more calm with the ball. We didn’t rush anything,” Meithof said.
At this point, Meithof already had a spectacular game going. But he shut the gym down with the play he made in the final minute.
After getting a defensive stop, Ochoa secured the rebound and handed it to Meithof in the backcourt. Instead of trying to dribble time off the clock before getting fouled, Meithof hit the accelerator, getting past three defenders and putting himself in a one-on-one situation with Canby’s Alexander Evans at the rim.
“He was just standing there on the fast break, so I was like ‘if he not going to do nothing, I’m just going to go over him,’”Meithof said.
And that’s exactly what Meithof did.
Evans tried to take the charge under the hoop, but the 6-foot-4 Meithof soared by the Canby post and threw down a ferocious slam, then flexed his mighty arms in jubilation, knowing that he had just helped his team clinch a huge victory.
“We have given him freedom to go and do that kind of stuff and make plays. It looked like he almost jumped over the kid. It was a special play by a special player,” Kirch said.
Meithof and the Celtics return to action in their final non-conference game at Forest Grove on Friday, Jan. 10. Game time is 7 p.m.