(This article was originally published on JMcDonaldMedia.com)
By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– South Salem didn’t necessarily played their best game Thursday night versus McNary and the Celtics made the Saxons paid for it in their 59-57 win to close out the first half of Mountain Valley Conference League play.
By halftime the Celtics held a seven-point lead that grew to 13 after a Alfredo Villarreal basket with under five to go in the third quarter.
But, the then 43-31 lead would be the biggest spread by the Big Blue Machine as the Saxons slowly begin to March their way back into the game.
Their ball pressure picked up, Trey Galbraith and Jaden Nielsen-Skinner answered Boston Smith’s and Nate Metihof’s baskets with South Salem knocking at the door down three with under a minute to go in the game down 58-55.
It was frustrated for the Saxons, knowing that they had a lot more in the tank. And with a long bus ride to Mountain View Saturday, Friday’s practice is going to be a crucial turning point for them entering the second half of league.
“It wasn’t up-to-par I would have to say, we’ve had a lot more in the tank that we could have pulled out. A lot more energy that we’ve had but we didn’t play good, we didn’t shoot well, we didn’t come out to play at any category. We didn’t play well at all,” said Ryan Brown. “There’s definitely going to be a practice tomorrow, no one comes out and practices tomorrow we’re not going to play good.
“It’s a long bus ride for a long game, it’s on the weekend so there’s a lot of opportunities for us to play like crap and if we don’t come out and practice tomorrow then you could tell we don’t want it.”
McNary had opportunities to ice the game at the free throw line in the closing seconds, but couldn’t add more of a cushion to their lead with the Saxons charging down the court looking to force more pressure on the Celtic defense to hold them off when it counted the most.
Nielsen-Skinner went out for a three-point shot looking for the tie, no good as Meithof nabbed the rebound and was fouled. He couldn’t land the front-end of a one-and-one, but Smith would push the lead to 59-56 with 13.7 left in the game on the next opportunity at the line for McNary.
Free Throws weren’t exactly their best friends in this one, going 1-for-5 down the stretch, but the Celtic defense helped keep McNary ahead as they closed out the first half of league with a big-time win against one of the State’s best teams.
“I mean, we weren’t particularly on for this one with free throws, but we just pulled out the good defense and that’s what got us the win,” said Meithof on the win with Summit coming to town Saturday. “Our defense was big because we were up by three and if they would’ve hit that, it would have been tied and overtime, but we held through,” said Meithof. “This gives us confidence for next time, we beat one of the Top 3 teams in the State, it gives us confidence for next the next games.”
South Salem got to the line to get it to two and had one last crack for the tie if not the win when Galbraith drove down the court before passing it out for the safer shot. Brown ended up having the last shot as he went up with a blue uniform going up with him, just releasing a second or two before the buzzer went off.
The ball hit the opposite side of the rim from where he was at as it slowly dribbled it’s way from the rim with McNary storming the Saxons court, snapping South Salem’s eight-game winning streak.
The Saxons tip it off against the Cougars at 2:30pm Saturday while the Celts tip it off at 6:30pm versus the Storm.