By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School girls varsity basketball team started its game against Sprague High School with an unanswered 17-point run Friday, Feb. 20.
Despite the feat, neither players nor coaches were exactly thrilled with the play in the 70-25 win.
“We handled them well by going through the motions. It wasn’t until the last quarter that we got the energy up,” said Vanessa Hayes, a McNary junior. “We had a bit of a talk at halftime that changed things.”
While the Lady Celts were never in danger, Head Coach Derick Handley wanted to see the team putting more pressure on the Olys.
“Our mindset has been too much what the other team is bringing to the game and not on being us and making the other team make adjustments,” Handley said. “In the first half, we were relying on the other team to miss their shots instead of forcing them to miss their shots.”
The lopsided score allowed McNary to clear the bench twice in the game. Sydney Hunter led all scoring with 25 points; Hayes had 11; Madi Hingston had six; Kaelie Flores had 10; Jasmine Ernest and Kailey Doutt put up four points each; Paige Downer and Lauren Hudgins had three apiece; and Emma Jones and Kelsey Koenig had two each.
Jones said defense in the second half improved exponentially.
“We were communicating well and knew where the help defense was when we needed it,” she said.
The Lady Celts are third in the Greater Valley Conference as the season winds down and will play their first playoff game Wednesday, March 4. Between Sprague and McKay High School, which the girls beat 61-15 Tuesday, Feb. 24, neither opponent was much of a challenge.
It meant that the girls will have to keep bringing their A-game despite the lack of pressure from recent opponents.
“We’re going to have to work extra hard in practice. We’ve worked really hard to get to this point in the season and we want to be prepared to take it to the next level,” Jones said.
Handley said there is room for improvement on both sides of the court.
“If we allow teams to do what they want to do on offense, they will. But, when we clamp down, we know what we’re capable of,” he said. “On offense, we’ve gotten selfish at half-court. We’re trying to make shots that aren’t great instead of looking for open teammates with better looks.”