The Auburn Trojans girls basketball team is off to their best start since 2021 — a year that lives in the memory of Auburn High School basketball fans as both teams made the state tournament while the boys ended up capturing the state title.
Auburn’s girls are coming off their best offensive performance since 2008, scoring 94 points in a win — 94-17 — over Thomas Jefferson High School on Dec. 11.
After a brutal 2022-23 season going just 2-17, the Trojans are finding a way to put wins together under new Head Coach Jessica Hansen. If that last name is familiar — yes, she is the wife of the boys team’s head coach, Ryan Hansen. The Hansens also graduated Kaden in 2021, who plays basketball at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, and has Carter and Avery on both the boys and girls teams this year at Auburn.
There is something different about this group, along with the new faces. Bella Titialii is eligible, Emmalee Secrest transferred from Riverside, and Kenzie Hinson came from White River (her mom teaches at Auburn). The group likes to compete and just play the game of basketball.
“I have probably over five girls come in and we call it ‘breakfast club,’ and at 7:10 a.m. they are getting shot up. That makes a big difference,” Coach Jessica Hansen said.
Along with three new incoming players and an extremely solid freshman class, the Trojans are off to a great 5-1 start, including a big win against Eastside Catholic, 51-40, on Dec. 12. “Our ‘one more passes’ were working for us tonight. We work on it a lot in practice, calling the ‘one more’ and finding the open shooter really helped us,” Emmalee Secrest said.
It was the second test of the season for the Trojan girls. After faltering to Tahoma in the second game of the season in its first test, the girls made sure to come prepared for the game against the Crusaders.
“We did a better job defensively closing out against (Eastside Catholic) shooters. That’s kind of what we struggled with against Tahoma. Offensively we were just making plays,” Hansen said.
This season, the Trojans’ roster has an interesting makeup. There are 10 rostered players on varsity, six of them seniors and four freshmen. Zero sophomores or juniors.
“We have such great leadership by our seniors. That is what’s kind of driving and leading this. They’ve welcomed the freshmen who are playing pretty significant minutes … At the end of the day they want to win and be successful. They know it’s going to take all of them, not just one or two,” Hansen said.
That mix is something that has helped the freshmen adapt quicker to the pace of varsity play than other places or circumstances: “It might not be me, but it’s always going to be we ‘Hansen said’ on the team’s philosophy.”
Eastside Catholic and Tahoma were both 2022-23 state tournament teams. Playing these teams outside of league play is important for the Trojans because the 3A NPSL is in a down year, quality-wise: “We’ve been working in practice. We have been killing it in practice. Our team bonding has risen (recently), we’re really getting that chemistry up,” Secrest said.
In the first quarter, Auburn got off to a solid start taking a 14-13 lead over Eastside Catholic. Auburn needed two threes to help propel them to the early lead — one from senior Kenzie Hinson and the other from freshman Jayda Lewis.
Lewis was the best shooter from the outside for the Trojans, finishing the game with 11 points and three made three-pointers, leading the team in that category.
Auburn took a quiet four-point lead into the halftime break. Eastside Catholic was able to keep it close, not allowing the Trojans to lead by more than five in the first half.
Senior transfer from Auburn Riverside Emmalee Secrest really got going in the second half. She was the offensive focal point for the Trojans and led the squad to a solid third quarter. She finished with eight points in the quarter and 16 in the game.
“The first half was really rough, for all of us. Our coach told me get the ball and drive, and shoot. She really got all our confidence up and let us know we got this,” Secrest said
Interestingly enough, the Trojans only went into the third quarter with a two-point lead, 39-37. After giving up more points in any quarter so far in the game, the defense locked it down in the fourth.
Eastside Catholic was 10 seconds away from being shut out for the entire fourth quarter. Rebounding offensively and having long drawn-out possessions helped the Trojans limit the Crusaders’ opportunities while helping themselves get better looks at scoring. The Trojans also switched to a 2-3 zone defensive scheme to help limit the Crusaders.
“That’s impressive. I typically don’t like to play zone much because we pride ourselves on being able to defend and match up… We were talking and we were scrambling, and it felt like every 50/50 ball we got. We had that gritty tough factor in the fourth quarter,” Hansen said.
Eight different Trojans recorded points — all four freshmen scored, which is a big deal against an opponent like Eastside Catholic. “They’re smart kids, and great players,” Secrest said about the freshmen.
The seniors have taken it upon themselves to be leaders for the four freshmen. “We as the seniors have to step up to lead the freshmen,” Secrest said.
The Trojans are back in action Dec. 14 against the Kentlake Falcons at home.