Dominating might be an understatement for how prolific the Auburn boys basketball team has been this season.
The Trojans took on Todd Beamer High School on Jan. 16 in a game that had a league title on the line. In the first matchup, Todd Beamer had the lead with three minutes to go. This time, Auburn had their bench players running the floor with three minutes left.
Auburn rode a strong second half to victory over the Titans, 81-59, in a game that was at one point tied at 42-42.
“Todd Beamer has been playing really good basketball and they played us tough at their place first time around. We told the guys before the game, this is a playoff game,” Head Coach Chris Hansen said.
The Auburn Trojans are undefeated inside of Washington state with their one loss coming against Ironwood in California. But in-state, the Trojan basketball team is playing like the mythological Trojan army.
Against Todd Beamer, the two sides played with ferocity and lots of pace with neither side wanting to make a mistake at the expense of falling behind.
“For us it is about showing them who we are. We’re coming out for what we want to earn. Playing with a ton of energy, heart and toughness. That’s what it’s all about,” Auburn junior Jaylen Petty said.
Auburn was lighting it up early on with four three-pointers by three different players in the opening quarter. At the end of the first, Auburn led, 22-15, but that lead was short-lived.
After taking a 6-3 lead, Todd Beamer trailed until the 3:20 mark in the second quarter. The Titans took the lead, 27-26, thanks to play from center Dom Simpson, but following a 13-point half, Simpson wouldn’t record another made basket.
At halftime, the Trojans led 32-31 over Todd Beamer. In the previous matchup, it was Beamer that held the upper hand. Coming out of halftime, both sides were clicking and making shots. Carter Hansen didn’t make a shot for the entire first half, but drilled two corner three-pointers to give Auburn some momentum.
“We preach all the time, ‘Sometimes you, sometimes me, always us.’ Players just gotta wait for your time and you gotta be ready for your time to make a play … Carter stayed ready and got a couple good looks. It was the exact same spot he hit threes against Auburn Mountainview. He must like that corner,” Hansen said.
The game was tied at 42-42 with 4:00 remaining in the third and Auburn went on a 14-0 run to close out the quarter.
“We got some stops. Anytime we can string some stops together, with the way we score, we can really extend out,” Hansen said.
“I like the team coming together and being able to share the ball. Even though we had a problem with that in the first half, we came together and talked about it and just came out and had fun,” Petty said.
The reigning North Puget Sound League MVP Jaylen Petty showed why he won that award last year and should repeat again this year. Petty finished the night with 32 points, if not for a difficult four-point second quarter. That number could have been way higher: “He can score from anywhere,” Hansen said on his star junior.
Petty’s offense is going to make highlight reels until his playing career is over, but his defense shined the brightest against Todd Beamer. Petty was tasked with guarding three-point hoister Caleb Berry, and Petty held him to 11 points with zero three-pointers.
“I take a lot of pride (in playing defense). I think a lot of people don’t really know I can guard. But I can guard, I take a lot of pride in that. More than my offense,” Petty said.
Production from the entire team was something the Auburn needed to have. Michael Reed (14), Chase Mentink (12), Carter Hansen (9), and Luvens Valcin (8) led scoring behind Petty. It’s a different group of players compared to the Trojans’ run a year ago. Last year’s side had nine seniors. This year, just four.
“These guys have seen and watched the groups ahead of them so they know kind of the recipe. They know they have to play together… Jaylen was a really big part of our group last year and Luvens is kind of the glue. He just does so much for us, he’s got a ton of experience,” Hansen said.
Valcin had a rough night shooting — just the eight points in the scorebook, but a lot of points were left on the floor. His coach has no worries that the recent Montana State University football commit will get back to his dominating ways.
“We’ll be fine. He’s probably already on to the next game. He didn’t finish as well as we might have needed him to. But he defended well and got big rebounds. He does a lot of things well, even when he is not scoring the ball,” Hansen said.
Auburn has won 61 league games since 2018 and has only lost six games in that time frame. Auburn saw the game against Todd Beamer as a test — and a test that the Trojans passed with flying colors.
“It was a playoff type atmosphere and a real physical contest… We have a two-game lead over anyone in the league so that sets us up for our fifth straight league title,” Hansen said.
“This group is hungry. They want to live to the standard that is Auburn basketball. They’re excited for the push they can make in the post season,” Hansen said.