Looking to kick-start its attack, Auburn unleashed defensive pressure early and often Monday morning.
The result was devastating — Mount Tahoma never fully recovered.
The suffocating Trojans forced seven Thunderbird turnovers in the first quarter to open up an 18-0 lead and springboard a convincing 80-37 boys basketball win in the King Showcase presented by the Ram Restaurant at Kent’s accesso ShoWare Center.
Auburn (10-6) forced 25 turnovers for the game, ruled the glass, ran free in the open court and scored 23 second-chance points to put away the Thunderbirds (1-13), a 3A school out of the Pierce County League.
“We wanted to come out and be real aggressive defensively and try to play to our tempo,” said Auburn coach Ryan Hansen. “The guys did a good job of turning them over, which leads to easy transition baskets. I thought our defense was really solid in the first quarter.”
So too was Pa’Treon “Joosey” Lee, who scored 10 of his 16 points in the first quarter, mostly on quick drives to the basket.
“We all look to share the ball, so it all came together out there,” said Lee, a senior guard, who collected seven rebounds and nine steals in 26 minutes of work.
Auburn has scored 80 or more points in three games this season.
Ka’sean Griffin paced Auburn with 20 points, hitting 7 of 10 shots, and delivered five assists and three steals. Jason Brown Jr. had 11 points, five assists and four steals, and 6-foot-5 junior Isaiah Dunn finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Sidney White, a 6-8 senior, had seven points and three blocked shots, and Aidan Oehler and Ezekiel Turner came off the bench to score seven and six points, respectively.
Auburn led 21-2 after eight minutes of play before Mount Tahoma closed to within 34-20 at the break.
But in the third quarter the Trojans put the game away with a 9-3 run in the first 3½ minutes, punctuated with a resounding Dunn dunk and a 20-point cushion.
Mount Tahoma managed just six points in the fourth quarter and shot only 27 percent for the game.
The runaway victory was complete, but Hansen and his players know that bigger games are just ahead. The Trojans play three of their final North Puget Sound League Olympic Division games at home, beginning Wednesday against Thomas Jefferson. Auburn begins the final stretch trailing front-running Federal Way by four games and second-place Enumclaw by three games, neither of which they play over the next two-plus weeks.
“Each game is important,” said Hansen, his thoughts turning to making a run at the postseason. “We just want to play well.”
Added Lee: “We need to work every single day at practice. That’s what’s most important. We go one game at a time. We want to be ready for the next one.”