Milwaukie High School’s boys and girls basketball teams won a pair of barnburners at cross-town rival Putnam in a Friday night Northwest Oregon Conference doubleheader.
The Mustang girls won 34-29, avenging an earlier loss.
The Mustang guys prevailed 60-58 in the nightcap, making it a sweep in their rivals for the 2015-16 league season.
“It was a huge win for us,” said senior guard Alexa Mulford, who led the Mustang girls with a game-high 15 points. “It’s my last time playing them and beating them at their place made it extra special. Going out with a win in the rivalry is awesome!”
“I sprained my ankle yesterday and I could hardly walk on it this morning,” said Milwaukie senior post Merrily Jones, who has battled injuries through much of her high school career. “But there was no way I was going to miss this game. We’ve beaten them before when I was on the bench watching [while nursing an injury], but this is the first time we’ve beaten them with me playing. This is a huge win for me and my team.”
“We’ve got Parkrose, Wilsonville, St. Helens and Liberty left [in league play] and we’ve beaten all four of those teams,” said Mulford. “So I feel pretty good with where we’re at.”
“Just because we’ve beaten those teams before, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy the second time around,” said Jones. “We can’t overlook anyone, but I think we’ll be ready.”
The girls game was close nearly all the way and the score was tied at 27-all heading into the fourth quarter. But the Kingsmen made only one of seven attempted field goals in the final period, and it allowed the Mustangs to pull away.
Milwaukie girls went up for good when Jones hauled down a rebound and put the ball back up 1-1/2 into the fourth period, making it 29-27 Milwaukie.
A short time later, Milwaukie sophomore Kinsleigh Edmunds rebounded a Kingsmen miss and went coast-to-coast for a fast-break lay-up that widened the gap to 31-27.
Putnam junior post Haley Brandel made it a two-point game, at 31-29, with an inside basket at the 4:50 mark.
But 30 seconds later, Mulford scored an inside bucket to make it 33-29 Milwaukie.
Putnam then missed four shots from the floor and two free throws down the stretch, while Milwaukie freshman guard Isabella Prieto added a free throw to gain the Mustangs their winning edge.
Had it not been for cold shooting, Milwaukie coeds would have put the Kingsmen away earlier. The Mustangs forced 16 turnovers in the first half, but they only found the mark on 5-of-27 (.185) shots from the floor and they trailed by a point, at 18-17, at halftime. The second half was slower paced and the Mustangs cashed in on 7-of-15 shots from the floor in the final two periods.
Mulford was the only Mustang in double digits in scoring. Freshman post Emma Whittington and junior post Megan Spaulding scored eight points apiece to lead the Kingsmen.
The Mustang win left Milwaukie girls and Putnam girls tied for third place in the NWOC league standings, both with 7-5 records in league play.
Milwaukie girls host league cellar-dweller Parkrose on Tuesday, Feb. 16, while Putnam coeds play St. Helens (2-1) on the road.
battle from behind
Friday’s Milwaukie versus Putnam boys game was a wild affair. Putnam led much of the way, although the Mustangs stayed within striking distance.
The Kingsmen held their biggest lead of the night, at 46-35, when senior wing Ethan Watzig hit a 3-pointer with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The Mustangs then upped their intensity on defense and whittled away at the lead. Putnam turned the ball over five times in the final three minutes of the third period, while Milwaukie senior forward Isaiah Gentry took his team on his shoulders, turning two 3-point plays and hitting a fast-break buzzer-beater that trimmed Putnam’s lead to 48-43 heading into the fourth quarter.
Still the Kingsmen battled. And it was still a six-point game, with Putnam leading 55-49, when Kingsmen senior guard Jake Krauss hit two charity tosses with four minutes remaining in the game.
Four consecutive missed free throws, followed by four turnovers then proved costly for the Kingsmen, as the Mustangs upped their defensive intensity with an inspired full-court press.
Senior guard Han Helfrich was money for the Mustangs on offense at crunch time. After going scoreless through the first three period, Helfrich scored nine points in the final 2:30 of the game, connecting on two 3-pointers and cashing in three times from the free throw line.
Helfrich’s 3-pointer with 1:18 to play made it 57-55 Milwaukie, giving the Mustangs their first lead since late in the second quarter.
Gentry stole the ball on the press and Helfrich hit to free throws to up the gap to 59-55 just inside the one-minute mark.
A rebound bucket by Putnam senior post Michial Voltaire made it 59-57 Milwaukie with 30 seconds to play.
Helfrich hit one of two free throws with 10 seconds left to up the gap to 60-57.
Watzig went to the line for Putnam with 2.3 seconds remaining and made his first free throw. He intentionally missed the second, rebounded his miss and just missed a 3-point shot as the buzzer sounded.
“I’m not surprised [we were able to come back],” said Gentry. “It’s something we are capable of when we play with energy and play as a team.”
Helfrich said of his critical scoring spurt at crunch time, “I look to get my teammates the ball first and then, if they’re not open and I am, I look for my shot. I’m just happy that my coaches and teammates believe in me and trust in me, and have confidence in me that I can come through in the clutch.”
“It feels great to have this team win in a hard fought game with our rivals,” said Gentry. “It means a lot. Putnam played great and it was a great game. It just came down to hustle points in the end and I think we wanted it a little more than they did, because they beat us twice last year.”
Gentry paced the Mustangs in scoring with a game-high 28 points. Milwaukie senior forward Vasiliy Voznyuk added 10 points, but he was the only Mustang besides Gentry in double digits in scoring.
Senior guard Jake Krauss tallied 19 points to lead the Kingsmen. Watzig (12 points) and junior wing Trey Wolfram (10 points) also hit double digits in scoring in the losing effort.
The Kingsmen played with adversity. They lost senior leader Jake Hamilton to a hand injury in the opening seconds of the game.
Milwaukie improved to 8-4 in conference with the win, while Putnam slipped to 5-7 with the loss.
“This win means the most of any win we’ve had so far this year, not just because it was in a game with our rivals, but because we want to get third place in league,” Helfrich said. “And this puts us a step closer to getting there.”
Milwaukie boys play at third-place Parkrose (9-3) on Tuesday, while Putnam boys have a home game with St. Helens (1-11).