Once La Salle Prep's boys basketball team grabbed ahold of the lead in Wednesday night's road game against Putnam, the Falcons were like a dog with a bone.
They refused to let go.
La Salle Prep's Nic Boyd scored 14 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, pacing the Falcons to a 60-43 victory and a sweep of their two-game Northwest Oregon Conference series with the Kingsmen.
"We treated this one like a playoff game," Boyd said. "We played well tonight. We started to let Putnam get some open shots, but then we refocused, calmed down, and got what we needed to get done."
There were some obvious playoff implications at stake going into Wednesday's game with La Salle and Putnam tied for the league's fourth and final berth into the OSAA 5A playoffs, but then two things happened to improve the Falcons' position in the league standings.
First, they won Wednesday game.
Then on Thursday, Parkrose had to forfeit last Friday's 55-49 victory at La Salle Prep after the Broncos used a player who participated in both the varsity game and the JV game and exceeded the five-quarter rule.
With that, the Falcons improved to 10-9 overall, 6-3 in league play, and moved into a second-place tie with Milwaukie, while Parkrose (10-9, 5-4 NWOC) dropped to fourth, one game ahead of Putnam (7-10, 4-5) with five games remaining in the regular season.
"We knew this game was important and we needed to win," Falcons coach Sean Christiansen said after Wednesday's game and before the forfeit became official. "Putnam beat Parkrose and Milwaukie, so we had to make sure we won to keep our playoff aspirations there.
"Losing tonight would have hurt. I don't think it would have destroyed us. I mean, if we can take care of business the rest of the way, I think we'll be OK."
First things first
Putnam's Marcellas Kenion hit a pair of 3-pointers and Jayden Junta knocked down another as the Kingsmen jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the first four minutes.
La Salle then went on a 15-0 run, scoring on six straight possessions and capping the run with three 3-pointers — two by Nick Robertson and one by Boyd — to take a 21-11 lead.
"That run right there, we knew we needed to step up," Boyd said. "Nick and I are probably two of the better shooters on the team. They left us open on a couple of shots, we got them to fall, and then we got in a rhythm and started playing with more confidence."
The run also forced the Kingsmen out of the zone defense they were playing and allowed the Falcons to dictate tempo, slowing things down and eating clock in a way that took Putnam out of its comfort zone.
"We got to run possession offense — pass the ball, move the gall and get good shots because we made shots at the beginning of the game," Christiansen said. "Kids don't get anxious when we play with the lead and we made better decisions when that happens."
After Putnam's Logan Turner hit a 3-pointer to pull the Kingsmen within 28-26 with 1:33 to play in the second quarter, Robertson, the La Salle freshman, connected two more times from long range to help the Falcons to a 34-28 halftime lead.
Putnam's hopes for another come-from-behind win were dashed in the first four minutes of the third quarter when the Kingsmen came away empty on six of their first seven possessions and La Salle went on an 11-2 run that extended the lead to 45-30.
The Kingsmen got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
"To start the second half, we came out flat, made a couple of mistakes that are kind of uncharacteristic, and that led to La Salle going on a run," said Junta, the Kingsmen's junior post. "Even when we tried to bring traps or go to different defenses, they did a really good job of swinging the ball.
"We could have done a better job in bringing pressure and what we were doing as a team on defense, but you have to give them credit for being patient and hitting some tough shots."
Sam Sholty led Putnam with 14 points, Turner finished with nine, and Kenion and Junta added eight each for the Kingsmen.
"We started off with a lot of energy, but as soon as the third quarter started, we went flat," Sholty said. "When you get down to a team like La Salle that holds the ball on offense, it's hard to come back.
"This hurts, for sure. We've just got to look forward to the next game."
Robertson finished with 12 points on four 3-pointers for La Salle, while Jake Owens added eight and Ian Simmons chipped in five.
"We're good when we make shots, just like everybody else is," Christiansen said. "The first half, we made as many 3s at Putnam did, but I think we took care of the ball a little bit better than they did in the second half and that was the difference."
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