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The Kingsmen made 9 of 11 free throws in the fourth quarter, while the Mustangs made 5 of 14 in Tuesday's NWOC opener

PAMPLIN MEDIA: JIM BESEDA - Putnam's Shane Halladin (2) drives around Milwaukie's Dustin Stradley (3) during the first half of Tuesday's Northwest Oregon Conference boys' basketball game at Rex Putnam High School.With the game on the line, the Putnam Kingsmen stepped up and made their free throws in crunch time.

The Milwaukie Mustangs only wish they had made theirs.

Putnam's Shane Halladin knocked down seven of eight free throws in the final 1:03 as the Kingsmen sealed a 56-52 home win over the cross-town rival Mustangs in Tuesday's Northwest Oregon Conference boys' basketball opener at Rex Putnam High School.

"Getting the win is probably won important than how we played," Kingsmen coach Gregg Griffin said. "I told the kids that a lesser team wouldn't have got the win, but we did the things we needed to do down the stretch to be fortunate enough to get the 'W.'

"Milwaukie played with a lot of emotion and fire -- a typical Milwaukie-Putnam game. I'm very, very happy we won."

In a game that featured two lead changes, four ties, and 44 personal fouls -- 23 calls on Milwaukie, 21 on Putnam -- it all came down to fourth-quarter free throws.

Milwaukie took a 42-38 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Kingsmen seized control in large part because they made 9 of 11 free throws in the final eight minutes, while the Mustangs made 5 of 14.

"Free throws were a big difference," said Halladin, the Kingsmen's senior point guard. "When there's a lot of fouls being called, it helps when the other team isn't converting at the line. That gave us an extra advantage."

Milwaukie went 6 for 6 from the charity stripe in the first half and forged a 31-26 halftime lead, but the second half was a different story.

The Mustangs made 5 fo 9 free throws in the third quarter, including the front end of two one-and-one situations, but saw their lead dwindle to two points, 40-38, when Putnam's Ruben Onishcenko made a pair of free throws with 1:45 remaining.

With Putnam's first foul of the fourth quarter, Milwaukie was in the double bonus, but the Mustangs struggled to take advantage of the extra free-throw opportunities.

When Milwaukie's Dustin Stradley missed two free throws with 6:28 to play, Onishcenko got the ball at the other end for Putnam and scored on a runner from the left side of the lane that tied the score at 43-43 with 6:14 left.

Then after a Mustangs' turnover, Putnam's Brady Miller hit a turnaround jumper from the left block that gave the Kingsmen a 45-43 lead with 5:42 remaining.

Putnam's lead was 48-45 when Halladin missed the second of two free throws and Onishcenko got the offensive rebound for the Kingsmen, who called timeout with 57 seconds to play.

During the parade to both free-throw lines that followed, Halladin made two for Putnam, Adrian Gama made two for Milwaukie, Halladin made two for Putnam, Mason Plumb missed two for Milwaukie, and Halladin made two more for the Kingsmen that pushed the lead to 54-47 and essentially put the game out of reach with 16.6 seconds left.

"Just like any other free throws," Halladin said of his clutch shooting down the stretch. "They felt good and I knew I was going to make 'em."

At the other end of the floor, there was no easy explanation for Milwaukie's shooting woes from the foul line.

"We're a lot better than that," Stradley said. "Something just got into our heads and we just couldn't make a shot. I think some people were nervous, but … we have to hit our free throws.

"It was a pretty good battle. I think we did well the first half, and then we slipped up the second half."

Did the officials call the game too tightly?

"Yeah, there were a lot of fouls," Stradley said. "I feel like some calls could have been different."

Said Griffin: "We did a lot of grabbing and holding, and Milwaukie did too. I thought the officials called it tight, but they called it tight both ways. I wasn't going to complain about that."

Onishchenko led all scorer with 17 points, Halladin finished with 16, and Miller chipped in 10 for the Kingsmen (5-8, 1-0 NWOC), who showed some signs of rust playing for the first time since the Dec. 27-29 Lahainaluna Invitational in Hawaii.

"We didn't play as smart as we could have tonight," Griffin said. "We made some uncharacteristic mistakes with the ball against Milwaukie's pressure and things that we've handled much better, but that's high school basketball."

Added Halladin: "It was a good game for us, especially in the second half when we played to our potential. The whole team played well. The whole team brought it and it showed in the second half."

Stradley had 15 points and was the only Milwaukie player to score in double figures. Deegan McCord added nine points, Gama had eight, and Manuel Mendoza and Plumb finished with seven each for the Mustangs (3-7, 0-1).

"I thought we played pretty well on defense in the first half," Stradley said. "The second half, we played all right and then some people just shut down that second half. It's disappointing, but we've got another game with them, so we can always come back and win."

MILWAUKIE 18 18 11 10 -- 52

PUTNAM 12 13 13 18 -- 56

Milwaukie (52) -- Dustin Stradley 15, McCord 9, Gama 8, Mendoza 7, Plumb 7, Katahdin 6, Corder, Lumanglas, Penaloza, Hardy.

Putnam (56) -- Ruben Onishchenko 17, Halladin 16, Miller 10, Ruffo 6, Kenion 3, Junta 2, Douangphrachanh 2.F

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