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Boys return to court recharged, more experienced

Hayden McCowan lays up a shot while Jon Kiser defends in practice last week. McCowan and Kiser both return to the Celtic roster this year. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School boys varsity basketball team is hoping for a vast improvement over last season. Experience coupled with more time together on the court might work its favor.

“Having the summer let us implement our offense and define roles for everybody so when the season kicked off we were able to pick up where we left off a few months ago,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary’s head coach in his second year with the program.

“We’re a lot more prepared as a team and we’ve got the chemistry that will lead to more wins,” added Nick McDonald, one of the team’s returning seniors. “We all know how the other guys play, we know their next moves and that’s how we’ll mold together.”

McNary closed out last season with a 2-8 record in the Central Valley Conference and 4-19 overall, but the team only graduated a handful of seniors, meaning many of its starters will return this season.

“Jonathan Doutt and Isaiah Montano will be back at guard and going from sophomores to juniors they are going to be a little more physical and little bit stronger,” Kirch said. “Having the experience with guards is huge in being able to get the ball up and down the floor and handling pressure.”

Also returning are Brandon Lao, Connor Goff and Hayden McCowan.

Moving up from junior varsity to varsity will be 6-foot-3 sophomore Devon Dunagan.

“Devon made some great progress in the off season and we’ll probably be seeing some of him this season. He’s doing a nice job of fitting in and he’s putting it together each and every day,” Kirch said.

Goff said the experience he got on the varsity court as a freshman and another year of experience for the rest of the team will guide them through the inevitable challenges the season will present.

“I think we’ll be a lot more mature and have the experience to handle the situations we struggled with last season,” he said. “We know our offense a lot better and we need to work on our playing as a team, but everything else is pretty good.”

The Celtics frequently gave up leads or had to try come-from-behind strategies last season. This time out of the gate, Kirch is looking for them to learn how to win.

“This year, when they’re up six with two minutes to go or up one with 30 seconds, they’ll need to close and finish the game. We want to be able to control the tempo of the game,” Kirch said. “We’ll also be looking at how they respond when things don’t go well. They’ve been doing a good job of it in practice, but we’ll get to see how they match up against another team this week.”

McDonald, a team captain, said he will be putting emphasis on communication.

“It’s going to be key on some of our defensive rotations, but the league is wide open this year and we’ll be looking for a championship,” he said.

The boys travel to Aloha High School for a tournament this weekend and the team’s first home game is slated for Wednesday, Dec. 5. Tip-off is 7 p.m.