Auburn High School notched their third win in a row with a huge league victory Jan. 13 over Kentwood, 65-61. The Trojans notched their first win against a league opponent who had a win percentage over . 500 since they beat Kentridge back on Dec. 5.
“It’s a big win for us because in California we lost these games … Finding a way to win (these games) can catapult us forward,” said Trojan Head Coach Ryan Hansen
The win put Auburn in a tie at fourth with Kentwood in the overall NPSL standings. But among the 3A teams, the Trojans are the top dog, holding a half-game lead over the Auburn Mountainview Lions.
For Auburn, it was the seniors leading the team: “When the game really mattered, the seniors made plays. That is what you want your seniors to do,” Hansen said.
The pressure was put on Kentwood from the beginning. A physical hard-nosed style of basketball set the tone for the night. Auburn allowed just five Kentwood points in the first six minutes, and after holding off a late Conqueror run, the Trojans took a 13-11 lead in that quarter.
The second half was more difficult for Auburn. The Trojans scored just a single three-point shot in the half. Auburn trailed as the first half came to a close, 26-25. The best Auburn player in the first half was senior Easton Rutledge, who totaled eight points and five rebounds for the Trojans in the half.
The difference came when senior Semaj Brown became the primary weapon on offense. Brown scored 12 points in the second half and had four rebounds in the half.
“I felt like it got tough. We faced some adversity. But we battled through it,” said Brown.
The third quarter ended in a tie, and coach Hansen told his guys: “It is an eight minute game.”
This Trojan team has had its fair share of adversity throughout the season. When that happens, Brown has a phrase he shares with his teammates: “It ain’t going to get any tougher that it’s already gotten.”
Auburn jumped out to a quick lead and was able to keep the lead without trailing in the fourth, thanks to Tyrell Nichols drilling back-to-back three-pointers. The closest the Conks got was two points with just under a minute left on a three-point shot 63-61. Auburn iced the game on two free throws from Petty to make the score 65-61.
“Semaj was really big for us too. High motor around the basket. He’s got a nose for the basketball,” said Hansen about his senior. Brown was the leading scorer for the Trojans, finishing with 22 points and 15 rebounds.
“If someone is not open, I know I am open. If you want to win, you get rebounds. That’s how I feel,” Brown said.
The Trojans were battered and bruised in the contest, giving everything they had in this game. A multitude of players including Rutledge, Petty Jr. and Brown all at one point had to visit the trainer.