Last second heartbreak: Auburn girls fall to Everett in state tourney

Avery Hansen’s 23 points just wasn’t enough to get Auburn past the Seagulls.

Jessica Hansen and the Auburn High School Trojan girls basketball team have been a revelation this season. One year removed from a 2-11 season, and the Trojans were given the number four seed in the state with six freshmen on their playoff roster.

A turnaround like that doesn’t occur on accident. The Trojans have a foundation that will look to build on this strong 2024 campaign.

“We focused on what we accomplished to this point. Our league championship, our district championship, our humongous turnaround,” said Head Coach Jessica Hansen, adding that her message to the girls was about looking at their year as a whole.

The campaign came to a close in a stunning loss to Everett High School, which eliminated Auburn with 43-42 win inside the Tacoma Dome on Feb. 28.

“I’m frustrated. That shouldn’t happen at this level,” Hansen said.

Auburn was slow out of the gate, making just four shots from the floor, and found themselves trailing 19-9.

The theme of the first half was Auburn trying to find something on offense, and that something was Avery Hansen.

Hansen willed the Trojans into the game, scoring seven third quarter points. Emmalee Secrest’s four points also helped Auburn find its legs offensively.

Once Auburn cut the lead to single digits, the thought of a comeback had to be heavy on the Seagulls’ minds. At the halftime break, Auburn trailed by seven, 29-22.

Hansen scored Auburn’s first seven points out of halftime. She finished with 23 points as a freshman in her first game inside the Tacoma Dome. That feat is impressive enough — she also scored 53% of the Trojans’ points in the game.

If there were two people who weren’t surprised Avery stepped up, it would be her mom Jessica and dad Ryan: “I’m not surprised. She’s a competitor… She always rises up in the big games. I’m not surprised at all. I expect that from her,” Jessica said.

Defensively, Hansen’s side showed up in the second half. They allowed just 14 second half points, but could put away the Seagulls.

“We did a much better job defensively in the second half. We just didn’t make enough plays down the stretch,” said Hansen.

In the final quarter, Auburn scored just seven points, and they came into the quarter with a one point lead. The play of the game came with 14.5 seconds, but the escalation to that play was over two previous possessions.

Auburn had the ability to run out the clock with under 20 seconds left in the game, leading 42-41, but a pass to Secrest went right through her hands, giving Everett the ball with 14.5 seconds left.

A busted full court press allowed Alana Washington to put the game away with 2.3 seconds remaining. To get all the way back in the game, lead late, then the game comes crashing down is one of the more brutal ways to end your basketball season.

“The only thing we can’t give up is a wide open lay-in and we gave up a wide open lay-in. It’s just frustrating,” Hansen said.

With the roster makeup that Hansen has been dealing with, at this point in the year she had essentially two different messages to the team. To the freshmen, use this as fuel. To the seniors, understand that good things have to come to an end.

“You’re talking to one side that their career and season is over, they’re devastated. So you can’t really ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda happened’ because it is irrelevant because you don’t get another chance,” Hansen said.

The camaraderie and team chemistry was special for Hansen to have her first year at the helm. But ending the season on such a sour note isn’t how this group deserved to go out.

“It was a great journey. They accomplished a lot. This group was really special. There was no drama, no baggage. They were just workers,” Hansen said.

“Anything can happen here, that’s what the Tacoma Dome is all about. That’s what makes it March Madness. Our younger kids, I can guarantee you they will get in the gym and work to get back here,” said Hansen.

Keleesa Howard signals to her teammates to run the offense inside the Tacoma Dome. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Keleesa Howard signals to her teammates to run the offense inside the Tacoma Dome. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Freshman Morgan Richardson comforts senior Mia Suy after the loss. Ben Ray / The Reporter

Freshman Morgan Richardson comforts senior Mia Suy after the loss. Ben Ray / The Reporter