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The Kingsmen go unbeaten in league for perhaps the first time in school history

Friday, Feb. 28, was an historic night for Rex Putnam High School’s girls basketball team. The Kingsmen celebrated long and hard with their coaches, parents and home fans following Friday’s 64-37 rout of Wilsonville in the Kingsmen’s Northwest Oregon Conference league final.by: JOHN LARIVIERE - Putnam senior guard Shelby VanLeuven (1) is mugged by Jocelyn Welberg (14) and Karlin McNeil (30) in last Fridays league final with Wilsonville.

With the win the Kingsmen finished 14-0 in the Northwest Oregon Conference, earning what is thought to be the first undefeated league season in the 39-year history of girls basketball at their school.

It’s only the Kingsmen’s fourth league title and their first since the 1981-82 season. Putnam had league champions in the Wilco League in 1979, 1981 and 1982.

In 1981-82 the Kingsmen went 17-1 in league (18-7 overall) and they bowed out of the big-school state tournament with two straight losses — losing to Corvallis 50-46 and to Grant 53-23. Grant went on to defeat Oregon City in the 1982 final, 59-51.

Putnam has had only two teams place at state. The Kingsmen finished with an overall record of 22-4 and placed third at state in 1981; and they finished with a record of 23-2 and placed fourth at state in 1979.

The Kingsmen (16-7, 14-0) ran away with this year’s NWOC league title, finishing three games in front of league runner-up Sherwood (16-7, 11-3).

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Putnam senior co-captain Ali Schooley. “I’m filled with excitement!

“Honestly, it’s more than I can explain. It’s such a great feeling. At the start of the season, we just wanted to have a winning season. But now, league champions. And league champions and undefeated, That’s even better. It’s more than I could have ever imagined us doing.”

“I knew we could do it all along,” said senior co-captain Mariah Oliver. “But now it’s a reality and not a fantasy. I’m overjoyed! Excited!

“I’ve never experienced anything like this. Last year, [when I was] at Wilson, we won a league title, but we didn’t go undefeated. And last year we had to share the title and be co-champions with Cleveland. Now I’m just league champion, and it’s my first time on an undefeated team.”

Asked how this year’s team compares with last year’s team at Wilson, Oliver said:

“[If we played that team] we’d murder them. We are more in shape, and smarter basketball players, and tougher.”

Oliver explained why this year’s team has been so successful: “We have a lot of people who are unselfish, and the chemistry is extremely good. We like playing together.”

Last Friday’s 64-37 shellacking of Wilsonville was truly a team effort. Ten players scored, led by seniors Shelby VanLeuven (11 points) and Mariah Oliver (8 points, 10 assists), junior Carly Bolander (8 points), sophomores Angela Arrington (8 points) and Brooke Snyder (7 points), and freshman Haley Brandel (9 points).

It was senior night and, senior playmaking guard Ali Schooley, who has had her season cut short by a knee injury, even made a contribution. Schooley drew loud cheers of approval from the home crowd when she stepped on the floor as the game was winding down and coolly cashed in twice, hitting a 3-pointer from the corner and a long 2-pointer.

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - Putnam senior leader Ali Schooley takes her turn claiming a piece of the net as a souvenir after Friday nights decisive win over Wilsonville. With the win, the Kingsmen finished 14-0 in the Northwest Oregon Conference.Rebounding proved pivotal in turning the game into a rout. Led by 5-11 sophomore Angela Arrington (12 rebounds), 5-10 sophomore Brooke Snyder (12 rebounds), 5-6 senior Shelby VanLeuven (11 rebounds) and 6-1 freshman Haley Brandel (10 rebounds), the Kingsmen out-rebounded their guests 50-26, with 28 rebounds at the offensive end of the floor.

Brandel helped set the tone early, scoring all of her points in the first quarter, when she turned two close-in baskets into 3-point plays.

The Kingsmen went on top for good three minutes into the game on a fast-break bucket by VanLeuven, following a steal by Oliver. They led 30-19 at halftime and they stretched their advantage to 22 points, at 47-25, by the end of the third quarter.

Their domination of the backboards gained Putnam 27 more attempts at the basket than their hosts. Putnam went 24-of-75 from the field (32 percent), while the Wildcats were 16-of-48 (33 percent).

The Kingsmen forced 23 turnovers; Putnam turned the ball over 17 times.

The Kingsmen had one of their best shooting nights of the season on Feb. 25, as they took care of business with Liberty, winning 58-36.

They made 24-of-47 shots from the floor on the night, with two 3-pointers.

Mariah Oliver (18 points), Haley Brandel (11 points) and Kelsea Baton (10 points) were three of the sharpest shooters.

Oliver was 6-of-10 from the field and she hit both 3-pointers. She also sparked the Kingsmen offense with eight assists.

Brandel was 5-for-8 from the field. She also hauled down 13 rebounds and blocked three shots.

Baton was 4-of-8 from the field, with three assists and five steals.

Angela Arrington blocked four shots and claimed eight rebounds, as she and Brandel led Putnam to an advantage on the backboards.

Leading 25-18 at halftime, the Kingsmen put the game away in the third period, when they stretched their advantage to 44-28.

The outcome would have been a lot more lopsided, except the Kingsmen turned the ball over 27 times, missing senior leader Ali Schooley (knee injury).

Putnam assistant coach Kris Leatherman said that sophomore Olivia Beko stepped up big-time in Schooley’s absence, especially on defense.

“Olivia guarded [Liberty’s] Mackenzie Oster in the second and third quarters and held her scoreless,” Leatherman said.

The Kingsmen played a strong defensive game all around, forcing 38 turnovers with their baseline-to-baseline defensive pressure.

Ranked 12th in the state in the OSAA RPI rankings, the Kingsmen (16-7) were to host 21st-ranked Pendleton (10-14) on Tuesday (March 4) in the play-in round of the Class 5A state playoffs, with the winner advancing to a Friday playoff game for one of eight berths in the 2014 Class 5A State Tournament.

Pendleton and Putnam met on Dec. 30 at Lake Oswego’s Nike Interstate Shootout, with Pendleton winning a 59-56 nail-biter.

“I like our chances [against Pendleton],” said Leatherman. “The last time we played them we were still figuring out our rotation. Angela [Arrington] saw limited minutes back then, and she’s come a long way; Carly is now an offensive threat to go with her defense; and Brooke has come a long, long way.”

Leatherman added, “Talking with our girls [working a weekend youth tournament], they’re hungry for some payback.”

With a win over the Buckaroos, Leatherman said Putnam would likely travel to fifth-ranked Bend (20-4) on Friday or Saturday, with a berth in the eight-team Class 5A State Tournament on the line.

Asked how she thinks her team will do in postseason, Schooley said: “I was a little worried [about how they would play without me] at Liberty. But the way they pulled it out at Liberty, I think they can go far. I think they can go all the way, to be honest. I have faith in them.”

Schooley added, “I feel so blessed to have had Mariah and Otis [head coach Otis Oliver] join the program. We couldn’t have done what we’ve done without them.”

Mariah Oliver said of the Kingsmen’s prospects, “Not having Ali definitely affects us. She is back-up point guard and we don’t really have anybody else that can do what she does, so it makes things tough if I get into foul trouble or need a breather. I have to to be conscious of not fouling.... But [even without Ali] I think we will make it to [the 5A State Tournament in] Eugene, definitely. And hopefully we’ll win a state title.”

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