By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School boys varsity basketball team ended their season with a loss to Lakeridge High School over the weekend.
The teams met in a play-in game that earned Lakeridge a spot in the state playoff, the Pacers won 65-42.
The Lake Oswego team found their flow midway through the first quarter and went on a 20-2 scoring tear that the Celts were never able to overcome. The loss of Johnathan Doutt to an ankle injury further hampered the team’s efforts in the second half.
“Our kids played hard to the final horn. They were just better than us,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach.
A 51-47 overtime loss to the McKay High School Royal Scots on Wednesday, Feb. 22, set up the Celtics to face Lakeridge.
The teams stayed close through much of the first quarter despite an early McNary lead on the back of Justin Burgess who put up the team’s first seven points. McNary edged ahead of McKay in the final minutes of the first half and a basket by Doutt put the Celts up 25-19 at the buzzer.
Early baskets by Garren Robinett and Burgess put the Celts ahead 29-23 at the beginning of the third quarter and then things turned cold as McKay edged back in and McNary struggled to sink the ball.
“We thought we played well and worked hard, but the shots just didn’t fall,” said Celt Dylan McHugh.
Robinett and Burgess traded goals to keep McNary ahead, but McKay knotted the game at 41-41 with less than three minutes on the clock.
In a play that most athletes only dream about and with 45 seconds on the clock, Celt Isaiah Montano drove a hard line to the basket to put up a shot just in front of one of the Royal Scots. The ball hit high on the board and Burgess swept up from behind to grab the ball one-handed in the air and push back to the board and into the net. It might have been the game-winner had Burgess not been hit with an over-the-back call, his fifth foul of the game and the one that ended up benching him just before the teams headed to overtime.
“It was a disappointment because we had our gameplan and we were executing it,” said Celt Nick McDonald. “We even shut down [Michael] Tolento and [Dillon] James, but then they had some other people come through with the game of their life.”
Robinett put the team up by two points in the opening salvo of overtime, but McKay reclaimed a 44-43 lead on a three-point goal. McHugh tied it again at 44-44 from the free throw line, but it was the last time the Celts threatened.
“It was frustrating for the guys to look up at the end and feel like you had won every category except for the scoreboard and that was the one that mattered,” Kirch said.
The Scots were buoyed by an 18-point game by Worthy Makaichy, a player who hadn’t had more than four points in a game until the Central Valley Conference tournament.
The losses capped a difficult season for the Celtics. The team finished in sixth place in the CVC with an overall record of 4-21, but it was also a year of rebuilding and change.
“It’s a new program and new coaches and I think next year we’ll go in with a different mentality,” McDonald said.
After graduating a throng of seniors last year, the team started with just three seniors – Burgess, McHugh and Robinett – on the roster and a new head coach in Kirch.
“I thought our three seniors did a great job of leading by example of how to play hard regardless of the circumstances. I was pleased with the change of the culture throughout all three levels of the program. Although we didn’t win as many games as we would have liked, I believe our kids really developed their character throughout the season, and I’m proud of that,” Kirch said.
While the number of seniors was small, it meant more opportunities for younger players to stake a claim on the team. Two sophomores, Doutt and Montano, and a freshman, Connor Goff, wasted little time in making names for themselves and that will give the program something to build on over the next two to three years.
Doutt was named a second-team all-league pick last week and Burgess received an honorable mention.
“We will build off the number of returners that we will have next year. We had a lot of young guys get experience playing varsity basketball at the 6A level. I believe that experience, although difficult and a roller coaster of emotions at times, will pay off greatly next season,” Kirch said.