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Kingsmen coeds plan on returning Rex Putnam girls basketball to its glory days

Theyve got talent and depth, and they plan on making a run at their first league title in decades


by: JOHN DENNY - Team captains Mariah Oliver (left) and Ali Schooley believe the Kingsmen have the horses to bring Putnam girls basketball the most success that the program has had in decades.It’s been three decades since a Rex Putnam High School team has won a league title in girls basketball.

But the players and coaches on this year’s team are serving notice that the Kingsmen’s fortunes are about to change.

“I honestly believe we will be fighting for a league title,” said Putnam second-year head coach Otis Oliver. “I think we have enough depth to give a run with any team in our league....

“Hopefully we’ll be playing our best basketball at the end of the season and we’ll play well in the [state] playoffs and get to [the state tournament in] Eugene.”

“We want to win league,” said Putnam senior co-captain Ali Schooley.

“I think we could do more than that,” said senior co-captain Mariah Oliver. “Our overall goal is to get to the elite 8. Get to [the state tournament in] Eugene.”

“It’s been a long time [since Putnam won league],” said Schooley. “I think the last time was 1982. But I do think we can do it. We’ve got a lot of talent and great work ethic. You can see it at practices, how people are competitive. We push one another and hold one another accountable.... We have great team chemistry and we play as a team.”

Based on early preseason results, the Kingsmen are going to win a lot of basketball games this year, and they should figure in the hunt for a Northwest Oregon Conference league title. After a 62-40 loss to Class 6A Tigard in their season opener, Putnam bounced back with convincing wins over Cleveland (73-52) and Reynolds (80-31).

The Kingsmen have plenty of talent and experience on this year’s varsity roster, which includes four transfers and what the Kingsmen coaching staff terms a “super freshman” in 6-1 post Haley Brandel.

Seniors Schooley (5-3 guard), Shelby Vanleuven (5-6 wing) and Kelsea Baton (5-6 wing) all return with starting experience from last year. The Kingsmen also return veteran varsity players in junior Carly Bolander (5-7 wing) and sophomore Brooke Snyder (5-10 post).

The transfers are Mariah Oliver (5-5 point guard from Wilson), sophomores Angela Arrington (5-11 post from Clackamas) and Adrionna Taylor (5-8 guard from Oregon City) and junior Aliya Taylor-Jones (5-8 post from Oregon City).

Baton was a second-team Northwest Oregon Conference all-star selection last year, while Schooley gained honorable mention in the league all-star balloting.

Mariah last year was honored as the “PIL 5A Player of the Year.”

Coach Oliver says of Brandel, “You can’t teach height. Haley has a thirst for the game and she has a very high basketball IQ for a freshman.”

Brandel has been starting, along with Oliver, Schooley, Baton and Vanleuven. But coach Oliver insists he can go ten deep without losing much in the level of play.

Oliver (25 points), Schooley (16 points) and Taylor-Jones (10 points) led the way in the recent win over Cleveland, while Brandel (17 points), Oliver (14 points) and Schooley (14 points) were the top point-getters in the rout of Class 6A Reynolds.

Oliver had a school-record 15 assists in the Reynolds game, while Brandel claimed eight rebounds and blocked three shots.

Against Reynolds, the Kingsmen took their full-court press off after the first quarter, but the Raiders still had 45 turnovers on the night.

Coach Oliver says he likes that he has height at the post, as well as talent at the guard positions.

“We prefer to get up and down the floor and run,” he says. “But if a team gets us into a half-court game, we have the size and depth at post that we can play half-court too.”

The Kingsmen are likely to see plenty of competition this weekend as they play in Lake Oswego’s Nike Interstate Shootout, a tournament that features many of Oregon’s top Class 5A and 6A teams. Their tournament opener is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday with Class 6A McNary.

NWOC play is scheduled to begin Jan. 14, when the Kingsmen play Sherwood on the road.

“I’m extremely excited!” said Mariah Oliver. “As long as we keep working hard in practice, I think we’ll go far and do good things.”



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