By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
When Celtics meet the Royal Scots in boys basketball Friday, Feb. 21, the McNary High School team might just put a lid over their basket in the last 30 seconds of every quarter.
When McNary met McKay High School earlier this season, the Scots escaped with a win on a buzzer-beating three-pointer. When the two teams clashed Monday, Feb. 17, McKay players repeated the feat twice, once in the second frame and again in the third. It was the latter that likely stung the most as it was a former teammate, Isaiah Montano, who put it up. McKay won 56-44.
“I think the buzzer-beaters killed our energy,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach.
Monday night’s game had a lot riding on it for both teams, McKay was fighting for an undisputed claim to second place in the Central Valley Conference, and it would likely have been a substanial boost to the Celtics’ power ranking.
The Celtic started out the night with an early 9-2 lead, but an unanswered 11-point run by McKay gave the team a lead it never relinquished. The Celtics hung close to the Scots for much of the first half, but the team’s first buzzer-beater put them up 31-26 going into halftime. McKay had a nine-point cushion when Montano hit the trey in the last second of the third frame.
“We were really excited and we had high energy and we matched their intensity, but we got a little sloppy. We weren’t under control in matching their intensity,” said senior Johnathan Doutt.
In the fourth quarter, the Celtics went on the attack on offense and created a handful of turnovers, but opportunities to score fell victim to mishap and fouls that kept the team from threatening McKay’s lead.
“We came in wanting to stop (Dillon) James, but I think they showed up more than us. We couldn’t pull the way they seemed to,” said Celt Devon Dunagan.
Doutt and Trent Van Cleave had 11 points apiece in the game; Dunagan and Tregg Peterson had seven each, Hayden Gosling had six and Braden Taylor had two.
Free throws also hurt the Celtics in the second half. After a relatively clean first half that included only four fouls for McNary, the Celts racked up 10 in the second half.
“The kids played hard and we don’t have time to worry about it. We’re playing good basketball and they just got some key plays that put us in the hole,” Kirch said.
The third place finish meant the Celts had to take on West Salem High School for the second time in five days in the opening round of the CVC tournament Tuesday, Feb. 18. The boys won that contest 54-42 and earned a second-round berth.
The McKay loss was a bitter end to CVC regulation play for McNary, especially after a dominating win over Sprague High School and an “ugly” one over West Salem had the Keizer team poised to become the league’s comeback kids.
In the Sprague game, McNary went into halftime with a 34-13 lead over the Olys and was only outscored by Sprague in the fourth frame.
The Celts won 56-36 as Doutt put up a game-leading 24 points. Dunagan had 12 points, Peterson and Van Cleave had eight each, Hayden Gosling had three and Connor Goff had one.
“We came out really strong and got a good lead on them. They key was rebounding against their 6-foot-9 post (Harris Morgan) and staying in front of him was a big part of it,” Doutt said.
Morgan only notched three points on the night.
Neither Dunagan or Doutt was particularly happy with the outcome of the West Salem game Friday, Feb. 14, other than it ending up with a Celtic win, 52-50.
“It was an ugly game, but you have to win those, too,” Dunagan said.
McNary had a four-point lead going into halftime, but lost it by the end of the third quarter. Only two points separated the teams heading into the fourth frame, but McNary outscored the Titans 19-15 for the win.