Celtics’ shooting torches Vikings, sets up big game with West Tuesday

Heading into the final stretch of the regular season, the McNary Celtics came out blazing Friday night against the North Salem Vikings.

It was the most points the Celtics (16-6, 8-2) had scored all season, and the most points from any team in a Central Valley Conference league game this year.

The 81-48 win was the sixth in a row for McNary, and comes before their biggest game of the season, a meeting with West Salem on Tuesday that could all but decide the CVC title. 

“After two really close games it’s really easy to let down mentally thinking of what we’ve just accomplished and what’s ahead of us,” head coach Ryan Kirch said. “I couldn’t have been more proud of our guys in our mental preparation, to stay engaged and stay focused against a team that hasn’t had as much success.”

Despite North Salem (8-15, 0-11) struggling in the win/loss column, they’ve been a tough matchup for the Celtics this season. The Celtics led by just three heading into the fourth quarter the first time they met this season, and the Vikings led in the fourth quarter the second time.

But that wasn’t the case Friday night.

The Celtics led from the start and never looked back. They led by 17 after the first quarter, and the lead never dipped below double-digits once it got there. 

“It may have been the best game we played all season in terms of defending and offensively sharing the basketball,” Kirch said. “We didn’t have to coach much. We got the players to a point where they could coach themselves, which is right where you want to be.”

Four starters scored in double figures, all with at least 16 points. As a team, the Celtics hit 13 3-pointers, their most in a game this season. 

Senior point guard Jando Gonzalez had six from beyond the arc, finishing with 18 points, eight assists and two rebounds. 

“The ball moves unselfish from one guy to the next and we all trust those guys to make plays, and they did,” Kirch said. “It was just fun to watch. You take a team at the beginning and it’s just a bunch of pieces and players, and you see what they become. And the growth of this group has been great, to the point where as a coach you just want to get out of their way a little bit.”

Senior Brody Roth and sophomore Steven Adams each had a game-high 20 points. 

Roth added four assists and two blocks, his second game in a row with 20-points or more and multiple blocks. 

“It’s a confidence booster for sure, especially going into the end of league and playing some tougher opponents,” Roth said. “It just shows the work we’ve been putting in outside of the gym is paying off.”

The big win could help keep the momentum moving for the Celtics heading into the biggest game of the season, Tuesday’s home matchup with OSAA-ranked No. 13 West Salem (14-8, 9-1).

Tuesday’s winner will be in the driver’s seat for the CVC championship. 

“We haven’t said one thing about a league title during this stretch,” Kirch said. “We said it all year long, ‘what’ll happen in the future happens in the future.’ We just want to stay present with what we’re doing and enjoy tonight. We’ve got two days off, come back Monday with our minds on West.”

The two teams have split the season series thus far, as the Celtics trail the Titans by one game in the standings. A win on Tuesday would draw McNary even, and give them the head-to-head tie breaker.

With that, a Celtic win or Titan loss on Friday would give the CVC title to McNary.

“I remind our guys that we were picked fourth in this league, somebody picked us fifth in this league,” Kirch said. “It gives us a little chip on our shoulder. Our guys are just having a lot of fun playing together and it’s fun to watch from the coaching position.”