Hoops: Auburn loses shocker to Lincoln in state tourney

17th seeded Lincoln upsets No. 1 Auburn in the round of 12.

The parity of sport is one of many reasons why people fall in love with the art of competition. It is why every March, people fill out brackets and calculate which small school is going to upset the biggest favorite and prove they belong.

In the case of the Auburn High School Trojans boys basketball team, they were the hunted. Entering as the number one seed, they had the expectation and aspiration to win a state title. They had the talent, experience and resume to be the number one seed — and have the weight of championship expectations.

The top-seeded Auburn boys team fell to the 17th seeded Lincoln Abes, 60-56, on Feb. 28. It is one of the largest upsets just based off of seeding in the history of the state tournament. The 3A tournament expanded to 20 teams in 2021.

“We were planning on big things and to not accomplish that, it sucks,” said senior Luvens Valcin.

Auburn and Lincoln were paired up in the opening round of the district tournament at Auburn High School, where the Trojans found themselves in a battle, but ultimately put away the Abes, 83-70.

In that first meeting, the two sides played a tightly contested game. The 17-vs.-1 seed from an outsider’s perspective may have seemed to put Lincoln at a big disadvantage, but internally, it was going to be a heavyweight fight.

“It’s just rough… We just didn’t finish. The kids are upset, it’s hard to be eliminated. It’s just one of those epic collapses where they got momentum and made that final run,” said Head Coach Ryan Hansen.

Auburn took a 12-8 lead early, and Valcin asserted himself as a force on the offensive side of the floor and dominated on defense early. He wanted to be the guy to help get Auburn in a groove from the first second of the game, and he did just that.

“Last game I wasn’t being as effective as I could be in the paint. I remembered that this is state, and I have to fight for 32 minutes. I feel like I put my all out there. We just didn’t get the result we wanted,” Valcin said.

In the second quarter, Auburn couldn’t find that separation factor that they had become accustomed to finding throughout the course of the season. Six different Trojans scored in the quarter, but not a single player scored more than one field goal. TJ Chagolla was the only player to put the ball through the basket twice — on a lay-up and free throw. Even though Auburn was leading, Lincoln got some momentum at the break with a buzzer-beating three-pointer, cutting the Trojan lead to one, 26-25.

“They made us work really hard offensively to get to our sports. It was kind of like a backyard brawl early on,” Hansen said.

Coming out of the halftime break, Jaylen Petty started to find his groove — he scored nine points along with Valcin getting going by scoring seven of his own. Auburn was up 47-34 and looked like they were going to close out the Abes just like they had before.

Lincoln went on a 18-5 run to tie the game at 52 apiece with just over three minutes remaining. In those final three minutes, Auburn scored just four points. Lincoln went on to ice the game.

“It wasn’t anything we did offensively, it was we gave up 26 points in the fourth quarter,” said Hansen.

Hansen took accountability for the loss: “It’s not anything that the kids did for us to fall apart like that. It falls on my shoulders, so I have to do a better job of having us prepared for moments like that.”

Outside of the Valcin twins and Mike Reed, the majority of this Trojan squad will be returning for next year. The weight of expectations on a stage like the Tacoma Dome can be overwhelming for young players.

“Every loss is a learning opportunity. I do feel like they handled it (pressure) well… They carried themselves and represented our program and community in a positive way… It should light a fire under them to avoid this feeling next year,” Hansen said.

“I told these guys I love them and to keep fighting. They could be here again and win it next year,” Valcin said.

Auburn’s Carter Hansen lets out a yell in the fourth quarter of the game against Lincoln. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Auburn’s Carter Hansen lets out a yell in the fourth quarter of the game against Lincoln. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Jaylen Petty of Auburn gets going at the Tacoma Dome. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Jaylen Petty of Auburn gets going at the Tacoma Dome. Ben Ray / The Reporter