Auburn’s young bunch has passed this way before.
A vanishing fourth-quarter lead. Overtime. Facing a neighborhood rival.
And finding a way to win.
Two weeks removed from a dramatic road victory in OT at Auburn Mountainview, Auburn came home last Friday night and responded in similar fashion – denying Auburn Riverside 63-59 in a North Puget Sound League Olympic Division boys basketball game at Bob Jones Gymnasium.
The Trojans rallied from a five-point deficit early in overtime to stretch their winning streak to three games. Auburn (7-1 division, 12-2 overall) made it four in a row with a 72-39 rout of Todd Beamer at Federal Way on Tuesday
Auburn Riverside (2-6, 4-10) lost another close one Tuesday, falling to Decatur 63-59.
A team built for tomorrow, the boys of Troy are maturing and excelling now – right before coach Ryan Hansen’s eyes.
“Being down five early in overtime, I thought we showed a lot of resiliency and toughness,” Hansen said of the comeback. “We didn’t waver. We stuck with it.
“I’m really proud of the kids. They didn’t give up,” Hansen said. “We were hoping that would be a game (against Auburn Mountainview) we would learn from.”
With its big man, senior 6-foot-5 post Isaiah Dunn, mired in foul trouble, Auburn turned to its young guards to pull out the win.
Facing a tough zone, Dae’Kwon Watson, a 5-9 freshman guard, hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:34 left in overtime. Sophomore Amar Rivers followed with a steal that triggered Dunn’s thunderous dunk moments later. Maleek Arington, a 5-10 freshman point guard, calmly sank three free throws in the waning seconds to seal the win.
Watson hit five 3-pointers to finish with a team-high 17 points.
“I didn’t think. I just shot it,” Watson said of his key 3-pointers, one in the fourth, the other in overtime. “The whole team had to step up.”
Arington had 16 points. Dunn, who sat for six minutes of the third quarter with three fouls, finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocked shots. Darrell Hester contributed nine points, three of which came in overtime.
On a given night, any one of Hansen’s players has shown the ability to get the job done.
“Dae’Kwon hit a big 3 for us. He’s a kid who can do that … it’s not anything I’m surprised by,” Hansen said.
Auburn Riverside, trailing 45-34 after three quarters, went on a 15-4 tear in the fourth quarter to get even. The Ravens’ Jayden Taylor hit back-to-back jumpers, the second tying the game at 49-49 with 1:59 to play in regulation. Watson answered with a trey with 1:08 on the clock, but the Ravens tied it up behind a Dan Ramirez basket down low and Cole Lenihan’s free throw with 5.4 seconds left.
Lenihan, a 6-3 junior, was effective in the post, scoring 20 points to lead the Ravens. Ramirez and Taylor each had 14 points, and Julius Cann finished with 11.
For the Ravens, it was a valiant effort undone down the stretch.
“Honestly, this has been the story of our season,” said Ravens coach Kevin Olson. “I think that’s our seventh loss in which we had the lead in the fourth quarter. … We’ve got to find a way to finish down the stretch. We made a couple of bad decisions, had a couple of tough calls. They’re really talented and took advantage of it.
“We felt like we could get some things done down there on the block, the post, with our bigger guys,” Olson said. “They’re a little quicker, we’re a little bigger, so we tried to use that to our advantage. We just fell short tonight.”
The win keeps Auburn firmly in second place, a game behind nationally ranked Federal Way, in the division race, with plenty of time to get even better.
“I tell those guys, ‘You’re not freshmen anymore. You’ve seen it all,’ ” Hansen said.