By Jeremy McDonald
KEIZER, Ore.– The game lived up to the top of the Greater Valley Conference and let-lone in the State between two Top 11 teams in all of the 6A Classification between McNary and West Salem High School.
Entering the second quarter, both teams traded blows with one another with the Celtics holding a slight advantage over the Titans from the other side of the bridge before West Salem’s Kyle Greeley received his second foul via a technical that sat the senior on the bench and McNary jumped on the opportunity by pushing the lead to seven a few possessions after Greeley’s departure from the game.
“It was tough, (but) we stayed in it,” said the Titans Tyke Thompson. “We went down seven and got it back and by the third quarter we were up three so we’re able to do it, but it’s just harder.”
By halftime it was 32-29 McNary as West fought back without their star guard on the court, and when Greeley came back to the court in the third when the Titans began to make a charge for the lead, the Celtics shifted over heavily to the side Greeley was on and leaving the backside of the court open in trying to challenge West Salem to throw across the grain to the other side of the court over a sea of White and Blue.
“We knew he was a really good player, he’s putting up 26 (points) a game, we knew he was their leader on that team and we knew if we got in him, play tough with him we can force him to have a bad night,” said McNary’s Andrew Jones. “He still had a good night but we did a good job containing him.”
Greeley finished with a well-deserved 22 points against a Celtics defense led by Jones, Lucas Garvey and Boston Smith. But with the attention on Greeley, it gave other offensive opportunities to the other weapons on the Titans offense.
Thompson added another 14, Tyler Miller contributed seven and Kolby Cooper added six as West Salem led by three midway through the fourth quarter with both sides fan-bases coming to life for the final 4:41 of the game.
The Titans wanted to stay perfect in league to keep up with Sprague, McNary wanted to keep pace and reel in West and the Olympians as the Celtics tied it at 53.
The Green Machine took a one-point lead, but that would be the last lead that West would have in the contest with Jones handing McNary a 55-54 lead with 1:55 left in the game off of a pair of free throws that was followed by Garvey extending it to three with 1:04 remaining in the game.
“I’ve been in situations like that before and my guys believed in me and so I knew I was going to make those and we’ll take the lead,” said Jones on those free throws as his team began to pull away. “It’s just contributed to our team and all of our hard-work. A lot of people didn’t believe this year and we knew we could do it, I’m just really proud of the team on how we played tonight.”
West did have a chance to possibly draw it back in to a one point, if not at least a two-point game with a ‘one-and-one’ opportunity with Miller at the line; but Miller missed the front-end of the free shot that translated to a Garvey lay-in that all but iced the 61-54 victory Friday night.
The McNary (9-4, 4-1 GVC) win puts them a half-game behind Sprague (9-2, 4-0) with the Celts preparing for McKay Tuesday at home at 6:45pm; for the Titans (8-4, 3-1) though, after suffering their first league loss of the season, they have an opportunity to rain on the Olys Torch of league perfection Tuesday in South Salem Tuesday night also at 6:45pm.
“We’ll be back, we’ll forget about this loss,” said Thompson. “We’ll forget about it and we’ll be back at Sprague.”
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald