Avery Buss prepares to go up for the shot after getting double-teamed (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

The shorthanded McNary girls' basketball team kept the score within single-digits for most of the contest, but couldn't contain Central Catholic's Gretta Baker down the stretch.

The senior shooting guard had 22 points on the night, 11 coming in the final period, leading the Rams to a 59-39 win over McNary in the season opener for both teams on Thursday, Dec. 2.

Hailey Schwinof led the way for McNary with nine points and nine rebounds.

The Celtics were playing without junior guard KJ Custer — their top returning player from last year — who was out with a toe injury. McNary head coach Elizabeth Doran admitted that there were a few other kids that were playing while banged up, but said that there were some bright spots despite being undermanned.

“We are battling a few injuries, even the kids that are playing are battling with some lingering stuff. We had to have other people step up … Not having KJ was difficult because she is a player with some of the most varsity experience,” she said. “We definitely have a lot to learn, especially on the defensive end, but I thought for our first game against a tough Central Catholic team, we did pretty well.”

Despite going 2-for-6 from the foul line in the opening minutes, McNary clung to a 4-2 advantage in the early going. Central Catholic, however, responded with a 6-0 run to go up by four. The Celtics got the lead within one after a baseline jumper by Lillian Besa, but the Rams ended the quarter on an 8-0 run to extend their lead to 17-8.

“This is a new group that hasn't really played together, so some of our team defense dynamics, like rotations and help side defense are things we need to work on,” Doran said.

McNary had a difficult time with Central Catholic's full-court press and man-to-man defense for the majority of the game, committing 19 turnovers on the night. But when the Celtics broke through the pressure, they were able to get some quality looks in the second quarter as Brookelynn Jackson and Kylie Nepstad hit a pair of open triples, helping McNary go on an 8-1 run after trailing by 14 earlier in the period.

“We started handling the pressure a little bit better as the game went on. Their trapping and aggressive man-to-man defense did bother us quite a bit. But we saw glimmers of some great offensive possessions, where we moved the ball around quickly and got an open shot or layup,” Doran said.

McNary kept the game within single-digits for a good chunk of the third quarter, but Central Catholic began pulling away in the final period.

The Celtics only scored six points in the fourth quarter, while the McNary defense had no answer for Baker, who scored on an array of shots from the perimeter and in the paint. The Rams also hit three of their six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“They hit a couple three's down the stretch and we just had some bad defensive possessions to be honest,” Doran said. “There would also be times where we would get a stop and then turn it right back over.”

Though they lack experience, Doran believes that her team will begin to jell as they continue their non-conference slate.

“I think we are a team that has the potential to work really well together. We are still getting used to playing with each other,” Doran said.

McNary will host Lakeridge on Tuesday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m., then travel to Thurston for their first road game, which will tip at 6:45 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10.

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]