Evan Cornell gets to the hoop after driving past a South Salem defender (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
After losing to South Salem in gut-wrenching fashion earlier in the season, the McNary boys hoops squad dominated the Saxons in the rematch.
Nate Meithof once again led the Celtics with a game-high of 31 points and Evan Cornell poured in 12 second half points off the bench as McNary took down South Salem 69-51 on Monday, June 21.
“You always want your team playing at their best at the end of the year, and I feel like that is where we are at,” McNary head coach Ryan Kirch said.
“We wanted to get them back, and show them that the last game wasn’t really us,” Meithof added.
The Celtics jumped out to a 10-2 advantage in the first three minutes after back-to-back triples from Meithof and Jando Gonzalez, as well as a pair of buckets by Jabol Balos and Tyler Copeland.
Meithof wound up scoring 10 points in the period, helping McNary maintain a 20-16 lead at the end of the first. The Saxons cut the lead to one in the second period, but a thunderous, two-handed dunk by Meithof, after driving baseline by his defender, gave McNary the momentum back.
Moments later, Meithof threw one down yet again, this time on a put-back dunk after a missed layup by Gonzalez.
“It is always fun getting up on the rim, especially on a put-back,” Meithof said.
McNary took a 32-28 lead into the locker room at the end of the first half, but when the third quarter began, the Celtics started to break away from their opponent.
“We have a lot of depth, and usually the third quarter is when we start to separate from teams,” Kirch said. “It is about who is playing well and who is playing well together and we just kind of roll with that.”
Late in the third quarter, it was Cornell that stepped up big for the Celtics. The junior shooting guard scored eight straight points on a pair of corner 3-pointers and a transition layup to give McNary a double-digit lead at 50-39.
“I felt like we spaced out everything and played really well together. We picked the right shots to shoot,” Cornell said. “It is about always being ready to step up.”
Cornell got two more buckets in the early stages of the final period, putting McNary up by 13. South Salem went on a 6-0 run later in the quarter to get within seven, but Meithof got to the rim on the next Celtics possession and put in a tough lay-in while getting fouled. Meithof completed the three-point play to put McNary back on top by double-figures.
“We thought if we could get them into the half court and make them guard, we would be able to score. We were more disciplined with our ball movement in the second half, and we were able to attack some long closeouts,” Kirch said.
“We wanted to come out aggressive and break their hope,” Meithof added.
There have been moments this season where McNary has struggled to maintain their lead late in games. But in this one, the Celtics finished off the contest on a 10-0 run to seal the 18-point victory.
“I was really proud of the way we executed in our late-game situations,” Kirch said.