MILWAUKIE – Putnam girls basketball entered the year with designs on its first state championship after returning four starters from a 5A semifinal team.
The Kingsmen suffered a big setback in the week leading up the season opener, however, when junior guard Rylee Lemen – a Northwest Oregon Conference second-team selection last season – broke her ankle in practice.
Putnam is hopeful that Lemen will return to the court later in the season, but with no guarantees, the Kingsmen are trying to pick up the slack and press forward. They improved to 3-0 on Tuesday night by rallying from behind in the fourth quarter for a 57-52 home win over 6A West Linn.
“We're just in the mindset that we need to go 100 percent every single game,” senior center Riley Greenleaf said. “Without her, we're more shorthanded than we were last year, but I think we still have the pieces we need to be a good team. Having her out is going to impact us a lot, but I think we'll be OK.”
Putnam, No. 4 in the OSAAtoday 5A coaches poll, showed its resilience against West Linn (0-3). The Lions, who trailed by 10 points late in the second quarter, erupted for 24 points in the third quarter to lead 48-44. But the Kingsmen buckled down and held West Linn scoreless for the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter to pull out the win.
“This group has been together for a while now, and they're developing that maturity to understand when shots aren't dropping, there are other things we can do on the court to make it work for us,” Putnam coach Max d'Auvergne said. “Tonight that was defense.”
Senior guard Emma McDonald scored a game-high 21 points, making all six of her free throws in the final minute to seal the win. Greenleaf had 16 points and senior guard Kayla Kasubuchi added nine points.
Putnam graduated the NWOC player of the year in point guard Maddie Olma, who is playing at Clackamas Community College. But McDonald, who is averaging 22.7 points per game, said the team's maturation is helping it reach a new level.
“Our relationships with each other have grown so much that we just trust each other a lot more than we did last year,” McDonald said. “This game, that stretch where no one scored for a while, my mindset was, 'I know that Riley is going to score, or that Kayla is going to score.' It's just having that mindset that we're going to win.”
D'Auvergne said that the players are still recovering emotionally from the loss of Lemen.
“Obviously Lemen is a huge part of what we do,” he said. “She's been with the group the entire time, through all those experiences, so it was really, really hard to find out she probably won't be with us for at least a little while. But the team is recovering well. They know that the team is much stronger than any one piece of it.”
Putnam – which opened the season with two wins in a tournament at Crook County, dominating Bend 59-24 and Ridgeview 64-38 – remains confident that it can be a serious state contender.
“Once we hit our stride, we can be a really good team, so I'm hoping we can hit our stride later in the season,” Greenleaf said. “I'm not sure when we'll get Lemen back, I don't know if we will get her back, but if we do, then it'll be a huge addition.”
West Linn coach Brooke Cates, who guided the Lions to the 6A quarterfinals last season, was impressed by Putnam's tenacity.
“I tell you, Putnam is a tough and scrappy team, and they don't quit,” Cates said. “Those two guards are tough. Kudos to them, because they could have rolled over, and they just came right back at us, and we didn't handle that very well. We didn't handle the pressure very well.”
West Linn is undergoing a total overhaul after losing all but one player from last season, including guard Allie Roden, who transferred to Clackamas after averaging 13.7 points as a freshman.
The Lions got a bonus with the addition of 6-2 senior forward Olive Batch, a transfer from California. Batch scored a team-high 16 points Tuesday, hitting two three-pointers.
“She's a talent. She's starting to show her thing,” Cates said. “This is what we see all the time with Olive in practice, so to bring that onto the court was really exciting to see.”
Panthers on prowl
South Medford, No. 5 in the 6A coaches poll, racked up 49 steals in beating 5A No. 3 Wilsonville 89-41 and Summit 66-26 in the season-opening Luke Roth Showcase at Sheldon last weekend.
“We seem to be at least playing at a quicker pace than some other teams at this point,” coach Tom Cole told the Medford Mail Tribune.
Senior guard Donovyn Hunter, an Oregon State commit, had 14 steals in the two games. She had 17 points, five assists and seven steals against Wilsonville and 21 points, four rebounds and seven steals against Summit.
Highly regarded freshman guard Taylor Young debuted with 17 points against Wilsonville. Senior Kendall Fealey added 16 points for the Panthers, who had 26 steals.
In the win over Summit, senior Tatum Schmerbach added 12 points and seven rebounds and 6-3 freshman Mayen Akpan grabbed 10 rebounds.
South Medford left Tuesday to play in the Nike Iolani Classic in Hawaii. The field includes Incarnate Word of St. Louis, ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps.
Wicks goes off
Sutherlin senior guard Micah Wicks, one of the state's top goal-scorers in soccer, showed why she is an all-state basketball player in leading the host Bulldogs past North Douglas 64-31 in the final of the Bill Spelgatti Invitational on Saturday.
Wicks scored a career-high 38 points as Sutherlin, No. 1 in the OSAAtoday 3A coaches poll, downed 1A No. 4 North Douglas. Sutherlin trailed 20-19 at half but the Bulldogs (2-0) pulled away behind Wicks, who exploded for 27 points after intermission.
Wicks finished 13 of 28 from the field, 6 of 10 from three-point range, and 6 of 8 on free throws. She also had nine rebounds and six assists.
The 5-5 Wicks was the Far West League player of the year as a junior, averaging 22 points, six assists and five steals. She scored 25 goals this season for the soccer team, which finished 13-3.
Sweet Home senior guard Brooke Burke set a school record by pouring in 39 points in a 51-36 win over Cottage Grove on Friday. She also eclipsed 1,000 career points.
The 5-6 Burke shot 14 of 27 from the field, including 7 of 14 on three-pointers, and made 4 of 6 free throws to surpass the previous school record of 37, set by Sally Aiello in 1998.
“She's very deliberate, and she does a great job of getting her body set and creating space to take the open shot,” coach Michelle Knight said. “She's not afraid to drive and draw a foul. She's a shooter, she's going to shoot.”
Burke averaged 18.7 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a junior, when she was an Oregon West Conference first-team pick. She had a 35-point game against Newport.
Sheldon freshman Kimora Wright helped lead the way as the Irish beat Summit 63-52 and Wilsonville 58-50 in the Luke Roth Showcase. The 5-6 guard had 13 points and eight rebounds against Summit and 17 points and eight rebounds against Wilsonville.