Miranda Evans scored 17 of her game-high 26 points in the third quarter of Tuesday's Northwest Oregon Conference opener

PAMPLIN MEDIA: JIM BESEDA - Putnam's Miranda Evans (3) scored 17 of her game-high 26 points in the third quarter of Tuesday's Northwest Oregon Conference opener against cross-town rival Milwaukie.Maybe someone connected to the Putnam girls' basketball program gave a heckuva halftime speech or maybe the Kingsmen just needed a couple quarters to get warmed up Tuesday night.

Or maybe it was a little of both.

Putnam's Miranda Evans scored 17 of her game-high 26 points in a pivotal third quarter that helped carry the Kingsmen to a 76-51 victory over cross-town rival Milwaukie in the Northwest Oregon Conference opener for both teams at Rex Putnam High School.

Sarah Rope added 18 points and Abigail Paul also finished in double figures with 11 points as the Kingsmen (10-2, 1-0 NWOC) won for the eighth time in nine games.

Cali Denson led Milwaukie with 25 points and MaKenna Presley added 17 for the Mustangs (2-8, 0-1), who lost their third in a row.

Putnam never trailed in the game and had an 18-8 lead at the end of the first quarter, but when Presley scored with an assist from Denson to cut the Kingsmen's lead to 27-25 with 1:06 to play in the second quarter, it looked as if the game could go either way.

The Kingsmen responded with a 6-3 burst in the final minute of the half to take a 33-28 lead in the break, and then they dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Mustangs 28-9 to turn a five-point game into a blowout.

Milwaukie never got closer than 22 points in the fourth quarter.

A good way for Putnam to open league play?

"Second half, yeah," said Rope, the Kingsmen's junior forward. "I think we were really nervous or scared, maybe. I don't know. It was the first league game, but we definitely turned it around in the third and fourth quarters."

So, what was different the second half?

"We just had to relax and get out of our heads," Rope said. "We were playing really selfishly in the first half, so we talked at halftime about working more as a team instead of people building up their own stats.

"We talked about how an assist sometimes means more than the finish, and I think that's something we were missing in the first half."

The Kingsmen also locked down defensively on Denson and Presley, who had combined for 22 of Milwaukie's 28 first-half points.

Some of that defense turned into instant offense as Rope scored the first six points of the second half and Evans scored the next seven, pushing a 33-28 lead to 46-28 with 4:42 to play in the third quarter.

The Mustangs put together a 9-4 run that ended with Presley knocking down a 3-pointing from the left wing to make it 50-37, but the last 2:34 of the third quarter belonged to Evans and Rope.

Rope converted a three-point play and then Evans reeled off four consecutive baskets in the final 2:15 to push the Kingsmen's lead to 61-37.

"We told ourselves at halftime that we were going to start working as a team instead of playing individually," Evans said. "And as we worked as a team, we started to put more point on the board."

Once the Kingsmen got rolling, Milwaukie didn't have an answer.

"They definitely came out of the locker room with the intent that they wanted the ball," said Presley, the Mustangs' senior forward. "I mean, they wanted it more than us, and the third quarter is when you've got to push, and they pushed it.

"The first half, we competed with them pretty well. It's a disappointment to lose to a rival, but I think it was a game we can learn from, which will help us improve for what's ahead of us."

MILWAUKIE 8 20 9 14 -- 51

PUTNAM 18 15 28 15 -- 76

Milwaukie (51) -- Cali Denson 25, Presley 17, K. Hawkes 6, Hyatt 2, Tuel 1, A. Hawkes, Holtz.

Putnam (76) -- Miranda Evans 26, Rope 18, Paul 11, Booth 5, White 2, Whittington 2, Bigbee 3, Weaver 2, Weimer 7, O'Dell.

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