It may have been a slow start for McNary junior guard Steven Adams this season — at least based on expectations some may have had for him coming off a sophomore season where he earned second-team all-conference honors — but back-to-back 20+ point games has Adams and the Celts offense looking like it’s clicking.
Adams had a game-high 21 points, shooting 53% from the field in McNary’s 75-47 win against Forest Grove Tuesday night as the Celtics improved to 3-1 early in the season. It follows a 25 point outing on 52% shooting against David Douglas last Friday after Adams opened the season shooting less than 27% in the first two games.
Both of those games were home wins for the Celts, a 74-45 win in the opener against Reynolds and a 64-27 win versus Aloha. Adams scored 10 in each of those games.
Celtics head coach Ryan Kirch never seemed concerned about his guard’s slow start, noting that Adams was taking some good shots early on that just weren’t falling. And as they tend to, they start to fall as the season rolls on.
“Everyone’s a little excited when the season gets going and he was probably just a little excited and played a little fast in those first couple of games,” Kirch said. “The thing I’m most impressed with is he’s always guarding the other team’s best player and our defense creates our offense and he’s the head of that, but he sure played great tonight on both ends.”
Maybe it’s the balance that the Celts have been able to show on offense so far this season that leaves Kirch so comfortable. Through four games they have three averaging double-digit points, and seven that average more than five points per game.
Kirch and the Celts had an extended look at the offense flowing without Adams in the second quarter, with Adams sitting for nearly the entire eight minutes.
He began the quarter on the bench to rest, as is normal with Kirch’s rotations. But, shortly after checking back in, Adams took an elbow below the right eye while trying to take a charge, and would sit out the remainder of the first half as they tried to stop the bleeding.
Even while on the bench, Adams stayed involved.
“I’m just thinking I have to communicate still,” Adams said. “I still have to be a leader. I know my team can do it.”
Tuesday night, Anthony Fuentes had 19 points for the Celts while Esai Carrasquillo put up 14 points with 12 rebounds. It was Carrasquillo’s third double-double of the season. Ethan Wollangk put in nine points, going 3-for-4 from both the field and the free-throw line.
Work at the free-throw line was a focus, according to Kirch, especially after the Celts went just 4-for-13 from the line against David Douglas, a two-point loss. In Kirch’s mind, a lot of those issues were just guys rushing and not taking the time to breathe at the line.
“The biggest thing, I don’t care what your routine is, as long as it’s consistent and the same every single time, take a breath and relax,” Kirch said. “And I thought the guys did a nice job taking advantage of that tonight.”
The Celts finished the night 10-for-18 from the line against Forest Grove, despite missing their last four attempts.
Balanced offense helped McNary tie their season-high in points, but it was their tenacious pressure defense that kept Forest Grove from finding any flow for their offense early on.
They weren’t forcing steals and getting out on the run quite as much, finishing with a season-low nine steal, but the McNary defense contested nearly every Forest Grove shot. They allowed just one made field goal in the first quarter, a corner 3.
And as the Forest Grove offense began to see some shots fall in the second half, Adams really seemed to take over, slashing through the defense seemingly at-will at times, and the McNary lead grew with each quarter.
The Celts travel to McMinnville on Friday before holiday tournament action next week. Tip-off at McMinnville is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.