When their point guard went down in the first round of the Nike Interstate Shootout, the Lady Celts had to have known it would be an uphill battle for the rest of the eight-team tournament.
They fought hard, but the short-handed Lady Celts couldn’t overcome the absence of Avery Buss, going 1-2 and finishing fourth in the white bracket.
Buss was injured in the first round against Evergreen High School from Washington, landing on someone’s foot and rolling her ankle on a third quarter jump shot. Buss had been rolling up to that point with 16 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals in the eventual 80-55 win for McNary.
Without Buss, the Lady Celts went 0-2, losing to eventual white bracket champion undefeated Forest Grove 62-31 on Sunday, and then a 53-47 loss to La Salle Prep in the third place game Monday.
For head coach Mike McShane, Buss’ injury is reminiscent of his own senior year and the adversity it caused. And McShane knows that Buss’ contributions go beyond the box score.
“Injury is a part of the game and right now we’re missing our point guard and our captain, she’s the leader of our team in a lot of different ways,” McShane said. “Our team gets a lot of confidence from her because when other teams apply pressure, we know that we’re going to be okay.”
There is of course the silver lining that McShane can see. With Buss out, some of the younger players are able to get some vital minutes and experience playing point guard at the varsity level, initiating and running the offense.
But that comes with growing pains. Without Buss, the offense for McNary ran stagnant at times, as evidenced by the 31 points against Forest Grove and in periods against La Salle Prep.
Monday night, the Lady Celts offense came out hot, scoring 20 in the first quarter. Sophomore Aubrey Adams had three 3-pointers in the quarter for McNary.
“Aubrey is a phenomenal shooter and we talked to her before the game about having a really good warmup and getting dialed in so that she was ready to go from the tip,” McShane said. “And she did exactly that. She was flying around on defense tonight. She really had a great game.”
The Lady Celts stretched the lead to seven near the midway point of the second quarter, but the shooting cooled, and La Salle was able to close out the half with a 7-2 run.
Even while in control at the start, some uncharacteristic turnovers and fouls from McNary helped keep La Salle in striking range.
And as the shots stopped falling for McNary, La Salle’s size began to show.
At 6-feet-1-inch, sophomore center Ava Bergeson was a clear force inside for La Salle on the defensive end.
“We’re in that game having a tough time finding easy buckets,” McShane said.
And at the other end, Bergeson was able to see over the defense and find cutting teammates for easy layups.
As La Salle ran the offense through Bergeson, it took away from the McNary press that has been a common sight since McShane took the helm last season. And often, they rely on that defense to lead to transition offense.
“A lot of our identity is our defense and our intensity on the defensive end,” McShane said. “And then a big part of that is defensive rebounding, which tonight we took a step back in terms of physicality around the basket.”
But there are a couple positives coming out of it all.
With the winter break coming, Buss will have time to get healthy without missing too many games. There is no timetable on her return, as McShane said they don’t plan on playing her until she’s pain-free.
There is one more game scheduled before a 12-day break, a rematch with La Salle on the road Thursday.
“They outplayed us, they deserved to win, but we get to go play them on Thursday, it’s a quick turnaround,” McShane said. “We need to continue to push the ball down the court and push the pace and then defensively make some adjustments.”
Tip-off on Thursday is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.