By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.— With both squads coming into Friday’s Mountain Valley Conference game with some momentum at hand, West Salem Girls winners of four of their last six games and McNary winners of their last three, there was a sense that it was going to be an interesting game.
The Celtics Leah Doutt called the match-up kind of a rivalry game of sorts as McNary jumped out to a 14-4 lead only to see the Titans charge back thanks to their press to tie things up at 18 apiece.
“We knew coming into it that we were going to press us and put a lot of pressure on the ball. So during practice we focused on that a lot,” said Doutt, who finished with 18 points and five assist. “We knew that they were long and taller than us, so we knew we had to make pass breaks and move the ball really, really well in order to break their press.”
West Salem came out with their size and had opportunities to pop in lay-ins against the Lady Celtic defense, but they weren’t falling and McNary took advantage of the hard fought rebounding warfare in the trenches to keep up and eventually entered the fourth quarter leading 31-26 on the Titans.
For West Salem, it was frustrating to see the offense that cracked 50 points five times in their last eight games and feeding the offensive machine through their press, not be as productive Friday night as they finished with their lowest point total of the season at 39 points by games end.
“I think it’s just lay-ins and running through our plays, we don’t do that as much as personally as I would like, because we think we can do it ourselves,” said Paige Alexander. “But we’re working on it. We’re doing a better job than where we’ve started, so that’s a good thing. It’s kind of a negative things, it’s kind of a positive thing.”
A game like this is like a kick in the butt in knowing that they need to come together and have better Team Chemistry with them traveling to Mountain View Tuesday evening.
“I think it’s going to kind of kick us in the butt and tell us that ‘hey, this isn’t going to work out in the next game’. It’s going to put us back into the mentality that we do need to work together,” said Alexander. “I think it’s just a kick in the butt, wakeup call that we need to start it now. We got to start it and that’s how I think it’s going to help.”
Hawley helped push the lead to five entering the fourth quarter before Maddie Bertsch and Antonia Gonzales cut it down to three. Doutt and Annie Besa pushed back to six. Olivia Rudolph cut back to two with back-to-back baskets.
Doutt again pushed it to four before Gonzales got it to two with 1:31 left in the game. For the Celtics, they remember that grueling preseason schedule as they’ve won their third straight game Friday after starting the season 1-8.
“It’s so exciting to see and people, they think of us as the underdogs I feel like. We have a really young team this year, and just to see all of it coming together is super, super exciting,” said Hawley, who had 10 points and five rebounds in the win. “I think we all wanted it super bad. Our preseason was really, really tough on us and we played a lot of tough teams and I think we put in so much work and to see it pay off it’s really exciting.”
Hawley couldn’t add to the lead at the line, but Kennedy Buss did from the field. Bertsch scored again as the Titan Senior finished with 8 points following her 37-point performance versus McKay Tuesday night.
Both squads traded baskets, but Besa would ice the three-point win with West Salem’s last heave to tie fell short in the 42-39 game Friday evening.