Kyler Rodriguez draws contact while going up for a shot (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
The West Linn boys basketball team has been one of the strongest athletic programs in the state over the last decade.
McNary found that out first-hand.
West Linn had their second highest point total in a postseason game since 2017 in their 95-52 trouncing of McNary on Wednesday, March 4 in the first round of the playoffs.
Nate Meithof had a game-high 21 points for the Celtics.
“Give them credit, they are incredibly skilled. Our guys competed and played hard and we had some pretty good possessions. I think we were just a little overwhelmed,” McNary head coach Ryan Kirch said.
After missing their first five shots to start the game, McNary got back on track offensively with a tough hoop from Meithof and a jumper from Gunner Smedema.
Moments later, Tyler O’Connor scored off an offensive rebound to put McNary within two. But thanks to forcing a litany of McNary turnovers, the Lions responded with an 8-0 run to go up 14-6.
Despite having 10 turnovers in the first quarter, Meithof was able to keep the game close early on.
The junior shooting guard completed a three-point play after finishing a layup between two defenders, then hit a deep triple on the next possession to trim the deficit to 14-12.
Meithof then hit a step-back jumper late in the period, but picked up his second foul with under a minute remaining in the quarter.
West Linn increased their advantage to 25-16, but Tyler Copeland continued McNary’s hot shooting by knocking down a 3-pointer from the baseline to get within six.
However, McNary cooled off in the second quarter. But the turnovers continued.
The Celtics gave the ball away three times to open the next period, which eventually led to a 9-0 run from West Linn. Even on made baskets, McNary couldn’t keep the Lions from getting out in transition.
“They are big, strong and fast. We had a pretty good idea of what they were going to do. Turnovers led to easy baskets,” Kirch said. “It seemed like as soon as we made a shot, they were scoring on the other end. We just didn’t quite do what we had hoped to do. It was a different speed than what we were used to.”
O’Connor briefly stopped the bleeding with a jump-hook and Junior Nunez soon followed with a mid-range jumper. But McNary still couldn’t slow down the West Linn attack as the Lions built their lead to 50-31 at half. They extended their advantage to 73-42 and the end of three quarters.
“What we have to learn is that when things go bad, we still need to stay consistent in our approach,” Kirch said.
Despite the defeat, Kirch was able to reflect how much improvement this McNary team made over the course of the year.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose and be done because this group of people won’t be in the same room together ever again. We accomplished a lot from the wins and losses standpoint, but even more than that, the growth we saw from our players and the amount of fun we had together, that’s what I’ll take away the most. From where we started last summer to where we are now, there was tremendous growth and it was just a really good season,” Kirch said.
Kirch also commented on the potential that next year’s team could have with returning 12 guys to their roster.
“We’re excited, but we still have a lot of work to do. We have to understand this there is different level of mental focus when you’re playing teams of this caliber. But we see a lot of potential and it will be exciting to see who steps up to meet that challenge,” Kirch said.