Boys basketball: Putnam rules crunch time, downs St. Helens, 53-52
When Putnam needed somebody to step up in crunch time against St. Helens on Tuesday night, Jeremy Devoe and Brady Miller answered the bell.
Devoe scored the go-ahead basket with 43 seconds to play and Miller made two free throws with 14 seconds left, lifting the Kingsmen to a 53-52 Northwest Oregon Conference boys' basketball home win over the Lions.
Putnam's Ruben Onishchenko finished with a team-high 18 points and Devoe added nine in a game that saw the Kingsmen (2-10, 1-1 NWOC) rally from a 46-42 deficit with 4:30 to play and send the Lions (6-6, 0-2) to their sixth loss in seven road games.
"We've played well in spurts and in parts of games, but that was a good one,"Kingsmen coach Gregg Griffin said. "And St. Helens is tough. That game could have gone the other way just as quick.
"That was a big win. That was really big. Our kids believe, but a win always helps."
The lead changed hands for the third time in the fourth quarter when St. Helens' Jacob Falk made two free throws to put the Lions on top 50-49 with 1:16 remaining.
Putnam then got the ball to Devoe, the 6-foot-5 freshman, isolated on the right wing, one-on-one with the 6-6 Falk.
Devoe, who only recently earned a promotion to the varsity team, easily beat Falk off the dribble and scored to give the Kingsmen a 51-50 lead with 43 seconds left.
The Lions had a couple of chances to regain the lead on the next possession, but Trenton Minich missed a three-pointer from the right-corner, and then Joe Rea grabbed the offensive rebound and failed to score from close range.
Devoe rebounded the Rea miss and was tied up by St. Helens' Owen Wolfe, leading to a jump ball with the possession arrow in the Kingsmen's favor.
After a Putnam timeout with 15.2 seconds left, the Kingsmen inbounded the ball to Miller, who was fouled immediately by Wolfe. Miller, the 6-5 junior, made both free throws, pushing the lead to 53-50 with 14 seconds to play.
"Everyone's thinking about pressure, and that's where it's all at, right there in high school basketball," Miller said of the free throws. "You've just got to put them in. That's pretty much it."
St. Helens had a chance to tie and force overtime, but Drake Dow's three-point attempt from the top of the arc missed left. Falk grabbed the rebound and scored to make it 53-52 as the final two seconds ticked off the clock.
"Putnam came out and played hard for 32 minutes," Lions coach Jordan Massinger said. "Every night in our league is like a playoff game, because everybody wants it. You've got to hand it to them for playing hard the whole game."
Falk scored a game-high 21 points, and Dow added 15 for the Lions, who faced an uphill battle after falling behind 13-1 to start the game.
St. Helens climbed within 24-20 at halftime, and 38-35 at the end of the third quarter, before taking the lead for the first time, 42-40, on Rea's basket off an offensive rebound with 6:09 to play in the fourth quarter.
The Lions twice extended the lead to four points, the second time when Falk rebounded a Rea miss and scored to make it 46-42 with 4:31 remaining.
But St. Helens' comeback came with a price -- fatigue at the defensive end.
"We gave Putnam too many easy looks," Massinger said. "I think our guys got a bit tired, so the Putnam players were going around us quite a bit. We tried to stop their ball screens with a little double-team, and we stopped them quite a bit, but we also let them have too many easy baskets."
Not the start to league play that the Lions had hoped for.
"It's disappointing in that we feel we can beat every team in the league this year," Massinger said. "We really are that confident, but we also are having a lot of trouble on the road. We have only one road win, so that's going to be a battle all season.
"But it doesn't discourage me in the slightest, because you're going to have adversity, and as long as you can learn from it, it should make us stronger."
Putnam, coming off a 60-58 home loss to Parkrose in last week's NWOC opener, hit six of its first nine shots from the field in jumping out to a 13-1 lead. The Kingsmen took their time in their half-court sets as they worked the ball for high-percentage shots, and all five starters -- Dustin Britt, Shane Halladin, Amir Mihub, Miller and Onishchenko -- had at least one basket each before the end of the first quarter.
"I think one key for us was our patience on offense," Griffin said. "When we would swing the ball a couple, three times, we'd get a good shot. When we went right away, not so much."
For the game, the Kingsmen shot 51.2 percent (21 for 41) from the field and 75 percent (9 for 12) at the free-throw line -- impressive numbers for a program that is having to rebuild after graduating six seniors from last season's 16-10 playoff team.
"We're getting there. We're getting better," Griffin said. "We have no varsity returners. We have kids that swung (between junior varsity and varsity) last season, and we have five kids in our varsity group that weren't in our school last year. So, it's taken us some time.
"Tonight was a big, big step, because it would have been very easy when St. Helens took the lead in the fourth quarter to just say, 'Here we go again. We're done,' and that kind of thing. But they didn't. They rose above it. Hopefully, that wil come into play with some other league games."
The Kingsmen's next test in Friday at La Salle Prep, and then they turn around next Tuesday at play at Wilsonville against the defending Class 5A state-champion Wildcats.
"I think this win kind of gives us a shot in the arm to stay right in the race," Griffin said "This league is Wilsonville and everybody else in a big bunch. La Salle is maybe just a shade ahead of folks, but every game is going to be a dogfight like tonight … and I hope we can get our share. And if we do, we do. If we don't, we don't.
"I tell the kids there are two phases to every season, and three if you're lucky. You start with pre-season and league, and if you get lucky, you get a post-season. Even if it's one game, it's post-season. That's our long-range goal, like it is for everybody, but tonight really, really helped."