The Falcons outscored the Lady Kingsmen 16-4 in the third quarter to turn a six-point halftime lead to a 45-27 advantage

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - La Salle Prep's Emily Niebergall had 13 points and eight assists in Tuesday's 64-34 Northwest Oregon Conference girls' basketball home win over Putnam.La Salle Prep's Taycee Wedin scored 15 of her game-high 23 points in the second half and anchored a strong defensive effort that forced 27 Putnam turnovers, lifting the Falcons to a 64-34 Northwest Oregon Conference home win Tuesday over the Lady Kingsmen.

Emily Niebergall finished with 13 points and eight assists, and Kylie Burg and Colby Jansen added 10 points each as the Falcons (16-4, 10-0 NWOC) won their 11th in a row and maintained their one-game lead over Wilsonville atop the league standings.

Putnam's Miranda Evans, Sarah Rope and Emma Whittington scored 11 points each for the Lady Kingsmen (5-15, 4-6), who had their longest win streak of the season snapped at three games.

La Salle led from start to finish, and although the final score was obviously lopsided, Putnam put up enough of a fight to keep the game interesting in the first half.

The Lady Kingsmen twice trailed by as many as 11 in the second quarter, but went on 8-3 run in the final 1:43 of the half to cut the Falcons' lead to 29-23 at the break.

"We did not have a good first half," Falcons coach Kelli Wedin said. "We had a good start, which I had challenged the girls to have a good start, but then we got casual and we turned it over five times in row and Putnam capitalized and we got blasted a little bit at halftime.

"It was a good opportunity to say, 'Hey, you don't get to show to just show up.' Everybody is going to give us their best game and Putnam is athletic and well coached, so it turned into a tale of two halves."

Just when it looked as if Putnam might be ready to give La Salle, the defending Class 5A state champion Falcons took their game to another level in the third quarter at both ends of the floor as they outscored the Lady Kingsmen 16-4 and opened a 45-27 lead.

It wasn't much of a game after that.

"We got a little fatigued in the second half," Putnam coach Brad Miller said. "We're a young, inexperienced team and La Salle is a very experienced team, and we didn't quite play 32 minutes. We came close tonight, but we didn't quite play all 32 minutes at the highest level. You can't do that against La Salle."

The Lady Kingsmen also let their guard down at times against Taycee Wedin, the St. Mary's College-bound shooting guard whose back-to-back 3-pointers from the top of the arc pushed La Salle's lead to 41-25 with 3:13 left in the third quarter.

"We had a game plan to find Taycee all night long," Miller said. "In the second half, we let down on that at times, and you can't do that, either. She doesn't miss 'em. The other La Salle girls will miss some, but Taycee doesn't."

Taycee Wedin added another 3-pointer -- her fifth of the game -- during a 15-3 run to open the fourth quarter that turned the game into a blowout.

"I tell the kids, 'Don't let people hang around,'" Kelli Wedin said. "We didn't make extra passes in the first half and we didn't share the ball like we normally do in transition. I think that was huge in the second half -- we made extra passes, we made the right play. And that's always our thing with the girls.

"We can get a good shot anytime, but let's get great shots. Let's get uncontested threes and let's get the 2-on-1s that we work on every single day. I really felt like they played that way in the second half."

La Salle's defense also played a key role the Falcons' third-quarter surge as Putnam scored on only two of 12 possessions in the quarter, going 2 for 7 from the field and 0 for 2 at the free-throw line with five turnovers.

"It was really frustrating, that's all that I can say," said Rope, Putnam's 5-foot-11 sophomore post. "I'm really proud of the way we played the first half. La Salle is a tough team. I was glad about the fight we put up. I wish we would have kept it consistent.

"I think we started to lose patience on offense, and we're a team that we let it get to our heads."

The good news for the Lady Kingsmen is that with four games remaining in the regular season, they are tied with St. Helens for fifth place and practically assured of a berth in the post-season.

In the NWOC, the top two teams earn automatic berths into the OSAA Class 5A 16-team field, while the third- and fourth-place teams have home play-in games, and fifth and sixth have road play-in games.

"I told the girls that it's time to go back to work and maybe just a little bit harder," Miller said. "We're getting there. We're getting closer. But playing against a team like La Salle, we see kind of where the peak is, where the top is. … We're not quite there yet."

As for La Salle, the Falcons are on track for a fourth consecutive NWOC championship, although second-place Wilsonville could have something to say about that when the Wildcats visit La Salle's Brick Oven on Feb. 16.

"I'm excited about just fine tuning and just sharpening up," said Kelli Wedin, referring to the weeklong break between the Putnam game and Tuesday's road game against winless Parkrose. "Five days of practice is glorious. It's that time of year where it's a grind and you don't want to do too much with the girls. But I like where we're at."

PUTNAM 11 12 4 7 -- 34

LA SALLE PREP 15 14 16 19 -- 64

Putnam (34) -- Miranda Evans 11, Sarah Rope 11, Emma Whittington 11, Probost 1, Weimer, Booth, O'Dell, Stotts, Bailey, White, Bartholomew.

La Salle Prep (64) -- Taycee Wedin 23, Niebergall 13, Burg 10, Jansen 10, A. Wedin 8, Riehl, Loboy, Lyver, Drullinger.

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