Lady Celts fall by 1 in tourney final

McNary girls basketball took part in the Nike Interstate Shootout at Lake Oswego High School, and the Lady Celts came inches away from coming home with a bracket championship.

Matched up with the 5A OSAA-ranked No. 2 South Albany Red Hawks, the Celtics (5-2) fell in the bracket final 35-34 on Monday.

“I’m proud of the girls the way they battled,” head coach Mike McShane said. “Of course we would have liked to have taken home the bracket.”

A three-day tournament brings with it fatigue, and McShane said he felt it affected the Celtics in the bracket final.

Monday’s final came down to the final seconds, as Ava Rubio fought through two South Albany defenders to get a final shot up at the rim just before the final buzzer. Unfortunately for Rubio and the Celtics her shot didn’t fall.

McNary controlled the game early on, led by their backcourt of KJ Custer, Avery Buss and Rubio.

They closed the first quarter up 8-4 after a layup from Buss and a Custer 3-pointer after McShane got his backcourt an early rest.

But South Albany’s freshman Taylor Donaldson heated up. The Red Hawks went on a 10-1 run to take the lead, and closed the half up 18-14 after Donaldson hit a pair of 3s.

“I thought we did a good job in the first quarter and then when we switched off and got some other people on her we didn’t have the same sense of urgency once she gave the ball up,” McShane said. “Once she had space and she saw the ball go through, her confidence was going. She’s  very skilled, talented and hardworking. I was impressed. For a freshman, they had three freshmen out there, how hardworking and disciplined they were.”

The Celtics trailed by three with a minute to play when Brookelynn Jackson hit a tying 3-pointer.

A reach-in foul on Custer sent South Albany to the line, where they hit one to take a 35-34 lead.

McNary turned the ball over with 18 seconds to play, but a steal from Buss on a long inbounds pass gave the Celtics life with 12 seconds to play.

The South Albany defense was smothering, not allowing McNary to get a good look at the basket before Rubio’s last second attempt.

“They handled our pressure really well,” McShane said. “They were well coached and well prepared for us and in the end it comes down to one possession.”

Buss led all scorers in the game with 13 points and 5 steals.

In the three games of the tournament, Custer had 35 points for the Celtics.

The first round was a 56-28 win against St. Mary’s Academy on Dec. 17.

The Celtics followed it up with a 48-31 win versus Lincoln High School Dec. 18.

“I’m really happy that the girls showed up, they played hard and most importantly the thing we’ve been talking about, they played together,” McShane said.