By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
If the best-laid plans often go awry, the McNary High School varsity basketball team’s were also going sideways and pear-shaped Tuesday, March 3.
The boys faced Newberg High School in the opening round of the state tournament and had to overcome more turbulence than most would have expected in the game.
The Celtics eked out a 48-45 win and will travel to North Medford High School Friday, March 6, for the second round of the tournament. The Black Tornadoes ousted Barlow High School from contention in a 63-49 win.
“Newberg wasn’t more than we were expecting, but they were different. We were game planning around their bigs and their lefty hurt us, but No. 32 (BJ Ulloa) was a big surprise and exposed us in some ways,” said Harry Cavell, a McNary junior.
McNary fell behind the Tigers early. Newberg led by as many as seven points in the first period. By the middle of the second period, the Celts had cut the lead to 16-11. At the halftime buzzer, however, the Keizer team was still trailing 23-16.
“They were really slowing down the game. We were trying to compact the paint and push them out, but we couldn’t get any momentum and we couldn’t get out to the open floor,” said Trent VanCleave, a Celt junior.
From the outset of the second half, McNary was out to set the tone.
“Trent did a good job changing the tide of things in the third quarter. Tregg (Peterson) made some big-time plays as big-time players do. For the most part, we also played without fouling,” said Ryan Kirch, McNary head coach.
On a VanCleave trey, the score sat at 25-24. At 3:19 to go in the third period, Cavell put in the go-ahead basket, but Newberg answered with a bucket of its own and a shot from the foul line. VanCleave tied up the score and Celt senior Devon Dunagan laid in a two-pointer at the buzzer to take control of the game.
In the final two minutes, McNary made the most of opportunities from the foul line and Kirch’s jacket came off as the refs hit the teams with off-setting technical fouls. Dunagan hit one and Newberg drained both of its shots. The score was 45-40.
Newberg got close once more with less than 10 seconds left in the game. One of the Tigers got inside the Celt defense to lay up a shot, but the refs called a fouled before it left his hands and the points, which would have made the score 46-44, came off the board.
Peterson put in McNary’s last two points from the foul line.
Despite the long road trip to North Medford, players and coaches were less concerned with the travel time than the team itself. The Celts have only lost one game this season on the road.
“We’ve got a height advantage (over North Medford), but they’ll get out and run with quick, good guards,” said Cavell.
“The environments don’t matter so much as the style of play. They’ll be more like a South Salem and we split the games with them this season,” Kirch added. “We need to control the tempo and protect the ball while getting points on both sides of the press.”
In other, less traumatizing news for the Celts. McNary’s entire starting line-up received all-league honors. Peterson and Cavell were both named to the first team all-league with Peterson being named Player of the Year. Dunagan was named second team all-league. VanCleave was given third team honors. Mathew Ismay was an honorable mention, but also named Defensive Player of the Year.
The boys also topped the state in average GPA for 6A teams for the second year. Collectively, they averaged a 3.65. It is the second consecutive year that the boys claimed the state title for classroom efforts.