Sports

Auburn boys tumble in 4A state opener, head to consolation bracket

Auburn
Auburn's Jodeci Johnson battles Gonzaga Prep's Chris Sarbaugh for the ball.
— image credit: Rachel Ciampi/For the Reporter

It might have been a case of big game jitters for the Auburn boys basketball team in the first round of the state 4A tournament Wednesday.

The Trojans misfired early and often and found themselves on the wrong end of a 65-33 whipping at the hands of Gonzaga Prep in the cavernous Tacoma Dome.

“It might be (jitters),” admitted Trojans coach Ryan Hansen. “You’re in a bigger arena, you don’t have a backdrop. You’re probably a little nervous. It’s 9 a.m.

"There are a lot of excuses you can make, but the bottom line is you’ve got to step up and you’ve got to make shots," Hansen said. "Everybody is good at this level. There are not going to be any easy games. Our kids just have to play relaxed, play with confidence and be able to make shots. We just didn’t do that.”

The Trojans (12-8) started the game cold, falling into a 29-11 halftime hole and never recovered despite a valiant effort on defense.

“We had a good defensive game. We held them to 29 at the half,” Hansen said. “We kind of wanted to hold them in the 50s, and then we thought we’d have a good chance to win. But we just had such a tough time scoring against them and it really put a lot of pressure on us.

"Once we weren’t hitting shots early and they got a lead, we started to tense up a little bit," Hansen said. "Then we started pressing and shots continued not to fall. We just never really got comfortable.”

Despite its shooting woes, Auburn contained Gonzaga Prep’s leading scorer, 6-feet-7 Ryan Nicholas, holding him to just 10 points, well below his 23.1 points-per-game average.

The Trojans finished the game shooting just 12 of 56 from the field, 21.4 percent.

“We struggled to make baskets, and you have to credit Gonzaga Prep’s defense a little bit," Hansen said. "They’re a physical team and it really showed. I thought they pushed us around and they were able to use their team strength.”

The Bullpups, conversely, took full advantage of their scoring opportunities, making 29-of-53 shots for 54.7-percent shooting in the game.

Gonzaga Prep guard Chris Sarbaugh finished with a game-high 19 points.

Junior Kevin Henderson led the Trojans with 12 points on 4-of-21 shooting. Henderson also had nine offensive rebounds. Junior Iszia Johnson had just seven points, two assists and five rebounds for Auburn.

The Trojans also struggled distributing the ball, notching just seven assists to Gonzaga Prep’s 21.

The Trojans faced Stanwood in a loser-out game Thursday morning, with results unavailable at press time.

“We have to flush this one,” Hansen said afterward. “No one is going to feel sorry for us and we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We came here to play four days, and that’s our goal and that’s what we have to strive for.”

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