Big third quarter puts Celts over the top

McNary post Lillian Besa battles in the paint in the Celtics’ 46-33 win over McKay (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

McKay was able to keep the game within single-digits in the first half, but thanks to a strong third quarter, the McNary girls’ basketball team pulled away in the second half.

Led by Avery Buss, who scored 13 of her game-high 15 points in the third quarter, the Celtics outscored McKay 19-9 in the third period and went on to defeat the Royal Scots 46-33 on Thursday, Feb. 3.

“It was good to walk away with a win. We did struggle offensively for a lot of the game, but we played good defense for most of the game,” Doran said. “Avery was definitely a spark for us.”

After the Scots scored the first hoop of the game, the Celtics responded by going on a 10-2 run, led by their suffocating full-court press.

“It was all about hustle and pushing the ball up the floor. We did a great job of that in the first quarter,” Buss said. “We had good teamwork on defense. We made it really difficult on them to move the ball.”

 Back-to-back steals from KJ Custer and Buss led to a pair of easy layups by Kylie Nepstad. Buss and Ava Rubio soon followed with transition hoops of their own to give the Celtics an eight-point lead.

 “It was all effort on the defense. We set the tone on that side,” Doran said.

 Another fast-break bucket from Nepstad, plus a pair of free throws by Brookelyn Jackson put McNary on top 15-4 at the end of the opening quarter.

 However, McKay did a better job of taking care of the ball in the second quarter, not allowing the Celtics to get out in transition. McNary struggled to get good looks against McKay’s zone defense, scoring just four points in the period.

 The Royal Scots ended the quarter on a 7-2 run to cut McNary’s lead to 19-11 at the break.

 But at the start of the second half, the Celtics turned up the intensity on the defensive end and became more efficient in their half-court offense.

 Buss got loose for a layup in the open court to begin the third quarter, then scored on a jump hook after corralling an offensive rebound on the following possession.

 Moments later Buss converted another steal into a layup, putting the Celtics up 26-14.

 “Avery played great defense in the third quarter. That is how we were able to go up by so much. Her defense led to a bunch of layups and transition hoops,” Doran said.

Midway through the quarter, the Celtics began to show some consistency in their half-court attack as Hailey Schwinhof scored in the post and Buss knocked down a triple, putting McNary up by 19.

 “We were able to share the ball a little bit more and were better at letting the offense develop instead of forcing the issue,” Doran said.

 “We talked about execution at halftime. We did that way better in the third quarter,” Buss added.

 McKay climbed back to get within 10 in the final quarter, but a three-point play by Aubrianna Cabral and a corner trey by Rubio helped the Celtics put the game away.

 With just seven games left on their schedule, the Celtics are hoping to get back over .500 in Mountain Valley Conference play to be in position for a playoff berth.

“I think we have grown throughout the year. It would be great to get some more wins in the second half of league (play) so that we can finish in the top 32 and make it to the playoffs. That is one of our goals,” Doran said.

McNary hosts Summit at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5.

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]