By MATT RAWLINGS
Of the Keizertimes
Forest Grove came into Keizer last Friday night beaming with confidence.
The Vikings had started off the season 10-1 and entered their matchup with McNary as the ninth-ranked team in the state.
But in the last non-league contest of the regular season for both squads, McNary emphatically showed that they were the superior team.
The Celtics never trailed in the game and dominated from start to finish, running away with the 62-39 victory on Friday, Jan. 4.
Nate Meithof had a game-high 24 points for McNary in the victory.
One of the main keys to McNary’s success so far this season has been the offensive productivity of senior post Boston Smith. However, Forest Grove made it a point-of-emphasis to try and take Smith out of the game, double-teaming him nearly every time he got the ball on the block.
Smith only scored two points on 1-of-2 shooting, but McNary head coach Ryan Kirch commended his senior leader for getting his teammates involved and not forcing up shots.
“I could not be more proud of him and the leadership Boston showed,” Kirch said. “He got his teammates so many opportunities to score because of the way (Forest Grove) was guarding us, and that allowed our guards to attack the rim off the bounce and get open looks.”
“Most people won’t be able to see Boston’s impact tonight, but it was incredible.”
Devyn Schurr was the beneficiary of Smith’s vision and passing ability in the early going.
With the Celtics up 6-4 in the first quarter, Smith kicked the ball out to Schurr on the perimeter after getting double-teamed down low, and the senior wing buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put McNary up 9-4.
On the next possession, Schurr completed a three-point play after knocking down a floater while getting fouled.
Later in the period, Schurr hit another triple off a feed from Smith, which concluded a 9-2 run for the Celtics and put McNary up 15-6 at the end of the first quarter.
Schurr finished the game in double-figures with 12 points.
“I hadn’t been playing well the last few games, so I wanted to make sure that I played with a fire and intensity all throughout the game,” Schurr said.
In the second period, it was Meithof’s time to shine.
The sophomore shooting guard hit back-to-back floaters to open the period up. Moments later, Meithof completed a three-point play, then knocked down a deep trey from the corner on the following trip down the court, putting McNary up 27-11 and forcing Forest Grove head coach Greg Evers to burn a timeout.
Meithof would finish the period with 12 points, guiding the Celtics to a 31-16 lead at the break. Meithof credited Smith’s ability to find the open man as the reason for his offensive outburst before the end of the half.
“(Forest Grove) was really focused on guarding the post and Boston knew that and he did a really good job of kicking it out to us,” Meithof said. “That’s what really got us going on offense.”
While the McNary offense was quite impressive during spurts, their defense really carried the charge for most of the contest.
With a suffocating full-court press and disciplined man-to-man defense in the half-court, the Celtics made life incredibly difficult for the seemingly unprepared Forest Grove team.
“Great players are going to score on you, but we made every single basket and every single point difficult on them,” Kirch said. “We still need to rebound a little better, but I thought we were really, really tough on the defensive end.”
It was the second time this season that McNary held a team under 40 points.
The Vikings tried to make it a game midway through the third quarter by cutting the lead to 10 at 39-29. But McNary responded by going on a 7-0 run thanks to a pair of hoops by Griffin Oliveira and a transition layup from Meithof.
McNary travels to West Salem tonight for a 5:45 p.m. matchup with the Titans.