By Jeremy McDonald
ALBANY, Ore.– Entering Friday’s game at West Albany High School, both teams had a lot at stake.
For McNary, it was to keep up with Greater Valley Conference-leading Forest Grove after the Lady Celts defeated the Lady Vikings earlier in the week with McMinnville breathing down their necks. For the Lady Bulldogs, it was to improve their rankings in terms of playoffs positioning while staying in the middle of the GVC-Standings.
As the game tipped off, both sides traded blows with Abigail Hawley leading the way for McNary with 13 first quarter points to help the Celtics take a 19-17 lead entering the second quarter. Hawley hit a three at the buzzer to give McNary the two-point lead.
But, like their other games against the Bulldogs, it was going to be a challenge to the end as West Albany answered the bell in the second quarter and built a 38-27 lead entering the halftime break by picking up the pressure defensively and shutting down Kailey Doutt that translated into point offensively thanks to the three-ball.
“Well defensively I know we let them shoot way too much and they were on tonight,” said Hawley. “Offensively we need to attack the basket and we took our open shots, it was the fact that they were not falling for us tonight either.”
The shots continue to struggle to fall, but the Celtics defense improved and allowed slowly for McNary to claw back into the game, eventually cutting a double-digit lead to four points in the closing moments of the third quarter before a mid-range shot made it 46-40 Bulldogs after three.
The defense of both team’s held the other’s offense from exploding as it did in the first quarter, West Albany couldn’t add to their lead nor could McNary chip away at it.
Until the final minute where the Lady Celtics showed their heart and grit,
Hawley went one-for-two from the free throw line, moments before Paige Downer drained a three to make it a three point game at 57-54 with 43 seconds left in the ball-game.
Molly Hendricks pushed the Lady Bulldog lead to 59-54 before Downer hit another shot to keep it to three with 14.9 left in the game to make it 59-56.
But, that would be the last points by the Celtics as West Albany would go on to make it a 62-56 final Friday night to hand McNary just their fifth-loss of the season and third in GVC-play.
The frustration is there, and losing hurts considering it’s few and far between; but they too have bounced back after losses in only having one back-to-back loses this season.
They know too that it’s a learning experience as they got tough challenges on the other side with three playoff-caliber teams in South Salem, West Salem and McMinnville to close out the season, but to close out the game as they did is a good starting point for Tuesday’s game versus McKay.
“It’s a learning moment, I think this is a good moment for us to lose,” said Downer. “We need to know how to come back stronger and put more work in practice and just get better. That was definitely not our strength, we played awful defense on three-point shooters so I think just tough defense is what we really need to work on.”
They’ll have a day to prepare for the Lady Scots before using the next week in preparing their defense for the Lady Saxons (February 13), the Lady Titans (February 16) and the Grizzlies (February 20) to build some momentum for the postseason ahead.
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald