St. Helens gets just enough down the stretch to get past Rex Putnam 60-58

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Lion senior Tanner Long had 13 points and 14 rebounds on Thursday night to help St. Helens push past Rex Putnam.It's become a common thought in the mind of many a Lion fan during boys' basketball games this season: watch the team build a lead in the first half, and then the inevitable: “Oh no, here we go again.”

And true to form, St. Helens (4-17, 2-10 NWOC) built a 10-0 lead to start the game on Feb. 20 against Putnam (1-20, 0-12 NWOC), only to see the Kingsmen fight back and take a lead midway through the fourth quarter on a nearside three-pointer from Putnam senior Calvin Spencer. The Lions got some late-game heroics on defense and made just enough shots down the stretch to survive, beating Putnam 60-58 to snap a six game skid.

“The ball bounced our way tonight. We got the rebounds, the steals. It bounced our way,” said Head Coach Jerry Allen. “I didn't think it was going to after a couple things happened early, but it did. Sometimes the ball bounces your way, because they had a good look at it. The stars lined up.”

The last time the two teams matched up, St. Helens pounded Putnam on the road by 20, and as the Kingsmen are dangerously close to finishing the season on a 22-game losing streak, it seemed almost a foregone conclusion that the Lions would wrap this one with a bow.

Aside from their red-hot start in which St. Helens made their first several shots and forced misses and turnovers on the defensive end, the Lions were outscored in every quarter the rest of the way and needed the big-time performances of seniors Tanner Long and Corey West to pull the game out in the final seconds.

“I thought we had it all the way when we had that 10-0 run,” said West, “but we kinda laid back and I thought we were too comfortable. But we didn't quit. We all believed in each other and kept fighting until the buzzer went off.”

Long was able to give St. Helens a five-point advantage with a nifty move and acrobatic layup late in the fourth and filled the stat sheet from end to end. In addition to tying West for team-high scoring honors with 13 points, he also grabbed 14 rebounds and had four assists, two blocks and a steal.

They'll look to avoid that result in their final two contests, and both West and Allen said things would have to be better.

“I'm glad we won, but we didn't play very well,” said Allen. “We were in charge of the game, and then in the fourth quarter we weren't. At the beginning we stepped out on them and played really well in the first half, and we were doing some things. They weren't shooting very well, but they made a run at us too. It's a game of runs, so if you can hold on during their run or stop their run, good things are going to happen.”

Now, the focus shifts to finishing strong, rather than fighting for a playoff spot. The Lions have two games remaining, the first being on the road against No. 10 Sandy on Feb. 21, and then senior night on Feb. 25 at home against Parkrose. With the return of football-star Jonathan Boland, who was out for the first several months of the season rehabbing from a football injury, Parkrose could prove to be a far more difficult challenge than the 53-48 loss earlier this year. Tensions were high in that contest, in which St. Helens led after three quarters but gave up a 35-point second half and were outscored by six in the fourth quarter.

West said the goal was to win out, especially as it was the last chance for the seniors to play together. He reminisced back to the group's first game, a close loss to Oregon City back in 2005.

“It feels a little weird because I've been playing with most of these guys since fifth grade,” said West. “It's a little scary, but I'm riding it out until the train goes off the tracks.”


St. Helens 60, Putnam 58

PUTN 5 13 18 22 58

STHE 14 12 14 20 – 60

St. Helens (60): Long 13, Spencer 3, Poorman, Helgerson 7, Jewett, Bumgardner 8, Enyart 3, Galvin, Teyema 9, West 13

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