Hoops: Auburn boys and girls down, but not out

Boys fall to North Central, girls lose to Arlington in regional round.

With the pressure of state basketball lingering around the Auburn Trojan boys and girls basketball programs, the luxury to play at home seemed like a benefit from on high.

But what happened on the court Feb. 23 was anything but a gift from heaven. Both the boys and the girls were not in desperation mode, bracket-wise. The girls were given the number four seed, while the boys got the number one seed in 3A.

So both teams were guaranteed to play in the Tacoma Dome, but wins automatically sent the Trojans to the quarterfinals.

The girls opened up the evening against the Arlington Eagles, the fifth seed. Arlington entered the game having their 14-game win streak snapped by Snohomish in the District 1 Championship game.

Auburn, on the other hand, hasn’t lost a game in the state since Dec. 1. Their only other loss was to Xaverian High School (NY) in Arizona on Dec. 27. It is safe to say, neither side is familiar with many tallies in the loss column.

Arlington bested the Trojans, 48-45, sending themselves to the round of eight. The Trojans will scrap in the round of 12 in a win-or-go home matchup with Everett.

From the get-go, Auburn’s girls seemed to be a tick off. Arlington’s defense stifled and confused the Trojan offense for essentially the entire game.

“It just was so much more physical than we have been able to play. That caught us off-guard,” said Head Coach Jessica Hansen.

In the first quarter, Auburn scored just five points. It took Morgan Richardson off of the bench to get the Trojans on the board with one minute left in the first quarter. Auburn was held to just 11 points in the first half, trailing 24-11.

“I think we settled for perimeter shots rather than attacking… They did a great job with the pressure. We knew they were going to pressure us, but we were clearly not ready,” Hansen said.

Auburn just couldn’t find a groove to really make a push to get back in the game until the fourth. Auburn doubled their first half total in the fourth quarter alone and cut the Eagle lead to single digits.

“I was proud of our girls (in the second half) because I was really disappointed with our effort in the first half with the way we came out competitive-wise. I felt like we were shying away from competition,” Hansen said.

Still, the Trojan attack was just missing a piece in that third quarter. The missing piece was Avery Hansen, who was in foul trouble for the entire third period. But in the fourth, she got going. After having just four points in the game, Hansen went off for 13 fourth quarter points. Her last shot was her biggest, but she couldn’t be on the floor for the final second. Her foul that sent Arlington to the free throw line was her fifth.

Auburn trailed by four points with six seconds remaining, with Arlington inbounding the ball. Hansen was able to record a steal on a Hail Mary pass attempt from the Eagles and hit a huge three-pointer to bring the game within one at 46-45.

Arlington made both free throws and Auburn couldn’t get a shot off in the final second, sealing the game for the Eagles.

“Now they will either respond or they won’t. I was really proud of the way we responded in the second half. We could have rolled over and we didn’t,” Hansen said.

Losing is unfamiliar territory for Auburn, as stated previously, but the Trojans’ year has shown they have incredible resolve and ability to hang with the top teams in the state. Auburn will play Everett Feb. 28 at 7:15 p.m., and the winner of that game takes on Garfield the following night.

Sophomore Chase Mentink drives the base line at Auburn High School. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Sophomore Chase Mentink drives the base line at Auburn High School. Ben Ray / The Reporter


The No. 1 seeded Auburn Trojans boys team faced a tall task taking on North Central High School out of Spokane.

The Wolfpack presented a daunting challenge for the Trojans. North Central played the majority of the game with Jacori Ervin at 6’10”, Gelonni Ervin at 6’8”, Makai Daniels at 6’6” and Eli Williams at 6’4” — according to the North Central roster.

Auburn’s tallest player, Isiah Englund, stands 6’6”. But as a freshman, Englund gets minimal minutes. So the tallest player on the floor most of the game is Luvens Valcin at 6’2”. For the Trojans, defense was not the problem against the Wolfpack. Scoring was.

“I was pretty happy with the way that we fought. I think more than anything their size made an impact on our offense,” said Head Coach Ryan Hansen.

Auburn fell 60-54 to the Wolfpack, the fewest points the Trojans have scored since last year’s state tournament win against Eastside Catholic in the Tacoma Dome.

“We’re telling each other to keep our heads up because our ultimate goal is still there. We still have an opportunity,” said Carter Hansen.

The regional round has been Auburn’s Achilles heel for the past 20 years. Auburn has lost nine first rounds of state games since 2004, when the Trojans beat Richland 74-60.

Since that win, Auburn has lost every first round or regional game since then, going 0-9.

So, it’s safe to say the Trojans are in familiar territory, even in recent history. When the boys won state in 2022, they lost to Mount Spokane. The rest is history and Auburn won its first ever state championship.

In the first quarter of the loss to North Central, Auburn got out to a three possession lead. Auburn took a 14-9 lead from six Luvens Valcin points to open up the game.

That was the last time Auburn was leading by more than one basket at the end of a quarter.

“Tonight, as a team we just didn’t shoot the ball like we normally do… It was just not who we have been all year. Their length may have forced us into some things we don’t typically do,” said Ryan Hansen.

North Central had a knack for hanging around. Much of that was due in part to no Auburn player scoring more than a single three-pointer in any quarter. Jaylen Petty had 11 first half points, but zero three-pointers. It’s a night Hansen hasn’t seen in a long time if ever from his leading scorer.

“I’ve never seen that. He is his hardest critic. It just wasn’t one of those nights for him,” Hansen said.

At halftime, Auburn had a 28-26 lead and at the conclusion of the third, Auburn had a 48-46 advantage. The Trojans were able to stay in front of the Wolfpack despite continuing to shoot it poorly from the field.

“We felt pretty confident with our defense keeping it close for three quarters and that shots would start going down. But they just never did,” Hansen said.

In the fourth quarter, the woes continued. Auburn was outscored 16-8, with three of those eight points coming from a Daniel Johnson three, to stop a 7-0 run.

Prior to that Johnson three, Auburn and North Central were tied at 51-51.

This game serves as a wakeup call for the Trojans. For a team with the talent Auburn has on its roster, a chip on their shoulder gives them an extra edge.

“It makes us more hungry, puts a little chip on our shoulder. We’ll be fired up and ready to go,” Carter Hansen said.

But that energy and motivation has to be used correctly: “Losing a game at this point in the season, especially when you haven’t experienced a lot of losses, it can ignite a fire and kind of refocus you a little bit,” Hansen said.

Auburn’s boys will play Lincoln in the round of 12 at the Tacoma Dome Feb. 28, a team that Hansen’s side beat 80-71 in the first round of the district tournament. “We talked about at the beginning of the year about cutting three nets. That has been a goal for us all year. That third goal is right there for us to do,” Hansen said.

Trojan freshman Avery Hansen drives throw contact and lets out a yell. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Trojan freshman Avery Hansen drives throw contact and lets out a yell. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Auburn junior Carter Hansen goes for a layup with a North Central HS defender closing in. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Auburn junior Carter Hansen goes for a layup with a North Central HS defender closing in. Ben Ray / The Reporter