McNary guard Gunner Smedema elevates for a jumper over a Mountain View defender in the Celtics 67-49 win on Tuesday, Feb. 18 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
It’s typical for Nate Meithof to have a big night. The state’s third leading scorer once again carried the McNary boys hoops team with 27 points in this one.
But it was a performance from an unexpected source that pushed the Celtics over the edge.
McNary sophomore Tyler Copeland, a guy that has swung time between JV and varsity for part of the season, was 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and had 14 points as the Celtics defeated Mountain View 67-49 on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
“My coach was telling me that I needed to be more of a varsity player. It really got to my head so I knew that I had to come out here and play well,” Copeland said. “I felt like I needed to prove myself today. It was just a great night. I don’t know what else to say.”
After McNary head coach Ryan Kirch was very critical of the Celtics in their last home game, he was much more pleased with what he saw from his squad against Mountain View.
“I thought it was the best 32 minutes we have played. I was really pleased with the complete effort from start to finish,” Kirch said.
McNary started the game with a lineup they haven’t played before as Copeland, along with Gunner Smedema and Junior Nunez each got their first varsity starts.
The new starting five gave the Celtics a spark immediately, scoring the first 14 points of the game.
Copeland hit back-to-back triples from the baseline in the first minute of the game. Meithof then hit a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key to extend the lead to 9-0.
Meithof then hit a runner on the Celtics following possession, and moments later, Smedema nailed a trey from the corner get the advantage to 14-0.
“Once we got on a roll, we just kept going,” Copeland said.
Coming out with a new starting five stemmed from a strategy by Kirch to add some intensity to their practices. Kirch installed several competitions at practice and the five guys that earned the most points from the competitions would be named the starters for the next game.
“I thought we were getting complacent in some areas as a group. Our top five guys that compete the hardest in practice and have the most competition points, those guys started. It makes for good comradery and it makes our practices competitive as heck. I imagine that we will have a different starting lineup for our next game,” Kirch said.
Meithof scored nine points in the opening period, but picked up his second foul late in the first quarter. However, his foul trouble didn’t make him play with less aggressiveness when he came back in for the second period.
Meithof poured in three straight hoops when he re-entered the game, keeping McNary’s lead at double-figures. He ended the half with 18 points, but Meithof also picked up his third foul with just over two minutes remaining in the half.
With Meithof on the bench, Mountain View got the score within four. Jaime Ochoa got some momentum back on the McNary side before the half by nailing his second three of the game at the buzzer.
But Mountain View continued to chip away at the Celtics lead and even trimmed the deficit to two at 43-41 with 3:33 left in the third period.
The Cougars appeared to be on the verge of tying the game, but when Grant Jordan was whistled for an offensive foul, the Mountain View forward let his emotions get the best of him and was called for a technical foul.
The game changed from that point forward.
After Evan Cornell stepped up to hit both technical foul shots, Kyler Rodriguez completed the four-point possession with a tough layup.
In the final 90 seconds of the quarter, the Celtics got a triple from Cornell and back-to-back 3-pointers by Copeland to complete a 13-2 run, which gave McNary the 56-43 advantage.
To begin the fourth quarter, Meithof called his number three straight times with isolation plays. He scored rather easily on all three trips with a pair of mid-range jumpers off the dribble and a nifty layup in the lane to increase the Celtics advantage to 18.
Meithof has been used to being face-guarded and double-teamed all season, so when Mountain View decided to play him straight up, he made them pay.
“It felt a lot easier. I don’t know why they didn’t defend me harder,” Meithof said.
McNary outscored the Cougars 24-8 in the final 12 minutes of the game thanks to their solid defensive play down the stretch, as well as their hot shooting and attack off the dribble.
“We did a lot better with our help-side defense and protecting the three-point line, because they were hitting them from out there. Once we did that, the game was over,” Meithof said.
“I thought we were really fundamentally sound. We calmed down and attacked off the bounce and we were shooting one-and-one with five minutes to go. Our guys were very coachable tonight and I thought that was also a big difference,” Kirch added.
McNary will host McKay at 5:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21.