But the Kingsmen have only just begun to make an impact in Class 5A girls basketball

by: JOHN LARIVIERE - Putnam players pose proudly after completing an undefeated league season and capturing their schools first league title in girls basketball since 1982. Pictured are: (front, from left) Shelby VanLeuven and Kelsea Baton; (first row) Jordan Oliver (23), Mariah Oliver, Ali Schooley, Alexis Imbler-Hudson, and Olivia Beko; and (back) coach Kris Leatherman, Maggie Batz, Megan Spaulding, Brooke Snyder, Haley Brandel, Angela Arrington, Carly Bolander, Kanani Kremers, head coach Otis Oliver and daughter Paxton.A dream season had a nightmarish ending for Rex Putnam High School’s 12th-ranked girls basketball team.

The Kingsmen couldn’t get the ball to drop and they bowed out of the Class 5A state playoffs with a 60-44 loss to Pendleton on March 4.

The loss ended an historic season and a 14-game win string for the Kingsmen, who went 14-0 in the Northwest Oregon Conference, earning their first league title since the 1981-82 season. It is also thought to be the first time ever that a Putnam girls basketball team has gone unbeaten in league play.

Putnam ended up with an overall record of 16-8, the best record since 1986-87, when the Kingsmen went 17-6, after going 12-4 in the Three Rivers League.

March 4 was one of those nights where the Kingsmen could not buy a basket. They were ice-cold, both from the field (15-for-59) and from the free-throw line (5-for-18).

On top of that, Putnam’s youthful posts — sophomore Angela Arrington and freshman Haley Brandel — got out-physicaled on the backboards.

“[Pendleton] must have had 20 offensive rebounds,” said Putnam assistant coach Kris Leatherman. “We only had 21 rebounds total. They out-hustled us and out-worked us.”

Pendleton 6-5 post Charmayne Robinson had 12 points and 12 rebounds on the night. Kiana Sperl crashed the inside for 15 points and 13 rebounds.

Pendleton veteran point guard Darian Lindsey helped make the Buckaroo posts look good, getting the ball inside for 11 assists. She also scored 13 points and dealt with Putnam’s defensive pressure with poise.

Pendleton took charge of things early on, going on an 11-0 run and building a 17-8 lead in the first quarter, and maintaining the lead the rest of the way.

Senior point guard Mariah Oliver (18 points) was the only Putnam player in double digits in scoring. Kelsea Baton had eight points and four assists.

Arrington had six rebounds and three blocked shots, but the 5-11 post scored only four points. Putnam 6-1 post Haley Brandel was held to three points.

It was the second time this season that Pendleton had beaten Putnam. The Buckaroos topped the Kingsmen 59-56 in late December in a game played at the Nike Interstate Shootout.

Pendleton, ranked 21st in the state in the final OSAA RPI rankings, improved to 11-14 on the season with the win.

The Buckaroos met top-ranked Willamette (23-1) in the round of 16 on Friday, March 7, and lost 81-50.

They’ll be back

tough as ever

Putnam coaches don’t believe that this will be the last time Oregon high school girls basketball will hear from Putnam’s girls program.

“The foundation has been built,” said Putnam assistant coach Kris Leatherman. “We expect to get to Knight Arena and get a state title next year.... We’ve got a core of girls that by the time they graduate from high school, they could dominate the state in 5A basketball.”

The Kingsmen lose four seniors who saw significant playing time this year to graduation. But they’ll return nine of the 14 players from this year’s varsity playoff roster. And while Putnam’s varsity went undefeated in the Northwest Oregon Conference in 2013-14, the Kingsmen jayvee went 9-3 in conference play, beating every conference opponent at least once.

Leatherman says he expects the varsity returnees to have a renewed commitment to get better, as they work to improve their shooting from the past season. The defense-minded Kingsmen, as a team, made only 36 percent of their field goals and 59 percent of their free throws in 2013-14.

Strengths during the past season were defense and rebounding. The Kingsmen averaged 32 rebounds and 25 forced turnovers for their 24 games.

“[Six-foot-one freshman post] Haley Brandel is going to be the focus of the team next year and she’s setting an example. She didn’t like [losing to Pendleton] at all. She was in the weight room the next day [following the loss].... She’s going to come back bigger and stronger next year, and she’s going to come back a monster.”

Brandel put up some monstrous stats this season while starting in 22 games, with 200 rebounds and a school-record 59 blocked shots in 24 games. She was also the second-leading scorer on the team, averaging 8.3 points an outing. And she was Putnam’s highest percentage shooter, making 45 percent of her shots from the floor.

The Kingsmen will also return 5-11 sophomore post Angela Arrington, who started 15 games, averaging 5.9 rebounds, 6.0 points, 44 percent shooting and 1.0 blocked shots.

Carly Bolander, a 5-7 junior wing who started in 21 games, is also expected to return.

“She was our defensive stopper,” said Leatherman. “She guarded every team’s leading scorer and held most of them to well below their average.”

Brooke Snyder, a 5-10 sophomore who saw plenty of action as a back-up post this fall, is also expected to return, along with 5-7 sophomore wing Olivia Beko, 5-4 freshman guard Kanani Kremers, 5-9 freshman wing/post Megan Spaulding, 5-6 freshman point guard/wing Maggie Batz, and 5-6 freshman wing Jordan Oliver.

Jordan Oliver had a jayvee game where she hit six 3-pointers, according to Leatherman.

Missed from this year’s team will be seniors — Mariah Oliver (5-5 point guard), Kelsea Baton (5-6 wing), Ali Schooley (5-3 guard), Shelby VanLeuven (5-6 wing) and Alexis Imbler (5-9 post).

Mariah Oliver, a transfer from Wilson who led the Trojans to a PIL co-championship and got PIL 5A Player of the Year honors in 2013, was Putnam’s floor leader this year. She averaged a team-leading 12.0 ppg, 5.0 assists and 3.5 steals.

Baton started in 23 games, averaging 7.6 points and 2.7 steals.

Schooley, Putnam’s vocal team leader and the first player off the bench, played in 21 games, but had her season cut short by a knee injury. She averaged 7.2 points, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals.

VanLeuven saw big minutes as Putnam’s second player off the bench.

Imbler missed all but one game because of a knee injury. She was the top returning post from the 2012-13 season.

Even with the loss of 2014 NOWC runner-up Sherwood [The Bowmen move up to Class 6A] from their league, Leatherman says the Kingsmen will have competition in the conference next year.

“I believe our league battle next year will be between three teams located within five miles of one another — La Salle, Milwaukie and Putnam,” Leatherman says.

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