Surrounded by youth, lone senior Rebecca Thareek has had to stand tall this season.
A leader by example who speaks in measured words, Auburn’s 5-foot-10 post player has done the necessary things to spur her teammates to greater things on the basketball court.
Thareek even does the small things that matter big, blue-collar tasks that often go unnoticed.
“If it gets us to where we need to be, that’s all that really matters,” said Thareek, a standout three-sport athlete.
Thareek, a storm in the middle, helped show Auburn the way to a breakthrough win Thursday night, a 40-32 conquest of Auburn Riverside, the program’s first over its rivals from the south end of town since 2003, ending an 0-for-32 dry spell to the Ravens.
“It was a nice moment to show Auburn is coming up and getting a lot better,” said Thareek, who scored five points, ruled the boards, blocked shots and passed the ball to the open shooter. “It was a great and proud moment to show that we’re getting better and that we’re going to compete with other people. … It’s all about who wants it more. And Auburn is getting there. We want it more and more every day.”
Keilani Songcuan, a junior wing, scored 13 points, sophomore guard Jaya Harshman had 11 points and Emily Strojan, another versatile sophomore, added nine for the visiting Trojans, who capped a good week in beating both neighbors – Auburn Mountainview (51-44 on Tuesday) and now, Auburn Riverside.
The Trojans, 6-4 overall, improved to 5-2 and moved into second place behind unbeaten Todd Beamer in the early North Puget Sound League Olympic Division race. The Ravens, another young team trying to find its feet, dropped to 1-6 and 1-8.
Brooke Dye, a junior guard, led the Ravens with 13 points.
It was a good week for Auburn and its coach, Jon Price.
“To beat two really good programs is significant for us in what has been a massive rebuild,” said Price, who team fields seven sophomores, many of whom played or started as freshmen. “We’re making progress, finally. It’s taken some time but we’re getting there. … We’re doing something right, but we have a long way to go.”
The Trojans started slow, struggling through a seven-turnover-filled first quarter. Thareek’s drive resulted in the go-ahead basket and an 11-10 lead after eight minutes.
Songcuan, Harshman and Strojan went to work, scoring the next nine points to give the Trojans a 21-17 lead at the break.
The Ravens went cold, managing one field goal in the third quarter against the Trojans’ aggressive man-to-man defense.
Auburn maintained its lead with Songcuan and Harshman draining key 3-point shots down the stretch to seal the win.
“They are really sound in their man defense,” said Ravens coach Christian Miller. “They have a lot of good athletes, and they have a coach who does a good job to put them in position to be successful. They’re a deep team. Everybody on the court for them is a good defender and a good shooter.”
For Miller and the Ravens, improvement will come with time.
“Obviously, with a young team you’re going to have some downs, but they’re really fun to coach. They improve every day. They have great attitudes,” Miller said. “But, at the same time, we want to improve quick. It’s not all about next year and the future, it’s how are we going to be this year? We still want to compete.
“There’s a lot of parity in the league. There’s a lot of good, young teams.”
Auburn being one of them.
“We hung with it. We hit some shots late,” Price said. “It was a significant win for us, for sure.”