The Auburn Mountainview High School boys basketball has been a roller coaster ride this season after a win to start the year against Kentridge, then losing to Tahoma and Issaquah.
However, a successful trip to Alaska and a win against Lindbergh at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, over winter break has shown what the Lions can do.
After a loss to Todd Beamer and Kent-Meridian in their last two games of league play, the Lions haven’t been that same team over winter break. Their luck may be turning around after a splendid 59-47 win over Puyallup inside the accesso ShoWare Center on Jan. 15.
“It’s definitely one of the more complete ones. We finally focused on defense and let the offense come to us,” Head Coach Kendall White said.
This was the first win over a 4A non-league school since Auburn Mountainview was 4A and beat Battle Ground in the district tournament in 2018.
The Lions looked to be rolling in the first quarter, with Sebastian Arius starting off hot with nine points in the opening frame. After the first quarter, the Lions led 19-12.
“This has been what we have been looking for,” Arius said after the win. “We still got pieces to put together but this is progress for us this year.”
The Lions had their largest lead in the second quarter at 31-15, but Puyallup closed the half on a 6-0 run and cut the lead to 31-21.
Sebastian Arius and Mande Wanlemvo at the conclusion of the game were the only Lions in double figures — Arius had a game high of 20 points. Both combined for seven assists when the final horn went off, and passing seemed to be a point of emphasis for White’s squad.
“We got back to our brand of basketball,” White said.
Arius went 5 of 8 from beyond the arc in the game, more than doubling Puyallup’s total as a team (2).
“It’s exciting (when shots are falling). I worked on it, I was making shots like today early in the season. I’ve stayed in the gym. It’s about staying consistent,” Arius said.
Being a team that cares less about the stat sheet at the end of the game and more about the scoreboard is an improvement that White has been looking for his side to make.
“This team didn’t care about how many points they had, shots they missed and who was getting buckets. They cared about playing defense,” White said.
“We’ve always played hard. But now we are really locking down on defense. Guys are putting their all into the defensive side and not worried about the offensive side,” Arius said.
Defensively, it was the seventh time Auburn Mountainview has held their opponents to under 50 points. But it stopped a three-game stretch allowing an average of just under 70 points per game.
“We have been trying to harp on that and I think it is finally starting to get through to them,” said White.
White was a bit cynical after the win against Puyallup — when asked if he had any excitement for the rest of the season, he responded, “No.”
“I don’t have any excitement or any expectations,” White said. He discussed the trials this team put in front of him. “This group has been my biggest challenge coaching-wise. Trying to get them to be on ‘go’ all the time. We’re just going to take it one day at a time…We don’t want to get over hyped about trying to make something special.”
“They know we have the talent to do something special, but at the end of the day, if we don’t work hard and play defense, our season will end shorter than we think it should,” said White.
Auburn Mountainview is back in action Jan. 19 against Kentlake, a team they beat by 24 in December.