Since 2006, the Canby boys basketball team has started 2-1 only four times: 2007, 2010, 2013, and the spring 2021 seasons. Not once in the last fifteen years have the Cougars begun a season 3-0.
But that changed Friday night, when Canby traveled to Salem and dominated the home McNary Celtics (0-1), 66-41, for their third straight win to open the year.
The Cougars (3-0) are on a five-game win streak dating back to their pandemic shortened 2021 campaign, are averaging 75 points per game and have looked more confident with each win.
“Our offense has the impressive ability to score so quickly. We are really good in the open court,” said Cougar head coach Craig Evans. “It’s been a lot more up-and-down than in past years.”
That impressive Canby offense was on display in the first quarter. After McNary hit a triple to begin the game, Canby scored 16 unanswered points, including 12 from behind the arc.
The Celtics were held scoreless for nearly seven minutes while the Cougar offense feasted in a variety of ways. When Alex Evans launched a pass to the high-flying Payton Meyers for a dunk — Meyers’ third of the season — Canby had built a commanding 21-7 lead.
Jando Gonzalez tried to keep McNary within firing distance in the second quarter, leading a mini 4-0 run to cut the Canby lead to 12. The large Celtic student section finally burst into cheers and prompted a Canby timeout.
Out of the break, Jacob Strand made his presence known with six straight points to pad the Cougar lead back out to 17 points to end the half. Evans was impressed by his teams’ suffocating defense that held McNary to only 15 points in the first two quarters.
“What’s really worked for us defensively is length,” Evans told the Current. “We’ve been able to gamble more because we know there’s always someone there to back us up. It just allows us to take defensive risks.”
The third quarter opened the same way as the second, with a McNary run to cut the lead to 12 and get the crowd back into it. This time, Meyers hushed the crowd and the 8-1 Celtic run with two 3s of his own; Canby marched out to a 51-29 lead at the end of the period.
The fourth saw Evans hit two more 3-pointers and Canby jump out to a 26-point advantage. With a few minutes remaining, Evans called off the dogs and sent the reserves in to gain experience. Senior Matt Soles scored his first career varsity points on an open three, and Canby won their third game of the season, 66-41.
Evans stuffed the stats sheets for the Cougars, finishing the night with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists. Meyers and Strand had 15 and 14 points apiece, while Kellan Oaks contributed 11 and two 3s on the night. For the Celtics, Gonzales and Evan Cornell led the team with 11 points each.
Canby’s strong start will face its strongest test yet Tuesday with a home game against fellow undefeated South Salem. Evans sees the game as another way to prepare for the tough Three Rivers League schedule ahead.
“Preseason is all about getting better every single day,” said Evans. “Against South Salem, we’ll try to get our defense a little tighter, half-court execution a little better, push the ball and be even more efficient.”
Tip-off for Tuesday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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