Julius Cain has taken on more responsibility and Auburn Riverside has become a better basketball team.
The 6-foot senior guard did a little bit of everything Friday night in directing the revitalized Ravens to a 54-32 victory against Auburn Mountainview in a North Puget Sound League Olympic Division boys game on Lea Hill.
Cain has personified new and improved AR – playing a big part in a suffocating defense and leading an explosive transition attack.
The Ravens, 5-15 a season ago, are 4-0 overall, 3-0 in league, their best start in six seasons under Coach Kevin Olson.
“We’re scrappy, we’re fighting for balls,” Cain said of the effort. “(Last season) humbled me. This season we’re not taking anything for granted, and I’m enjoying myself while I’m out here.”
Cain has taken on a leadership role, earning the respect that comes with it.
“He’s a solid player for us. It’s night and day from last year,” Olson said of Cain’s all-around play. “He has a great attitude. He’s been awesome. He’s done a great job in leading us.”
Cain scored 12 of his game-high 14 points in the second half, triggering a 19-5 run at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth quarter. Cain drilled a 3-pointer, deposited two layups in transition, had a steal, sank a free throw and threw a long pass to Malik Blancaneaux for a layup.
“It’s exciting. The team is really jelling right now,” Olson said. “Great chemistry. Everybody’s for each other. It’s not about individuals, it’s about the team.
“We bring positive effort, great enthusiasm and we put the team first, and the guys have really bought into that,” Olson added. “We’re just playing hard, playing together and playing to win. It’s been a great start. We’re going to try and keep it going.”
Cole Linehan, a 6-4 senior post, finished with 11 points and helped take command of the boards. Junior guard Kevin Griffin had 11 points and sophomore guard Isiah Gulchuck finished with 10.
The Lions (4-2, 1-2) are also off to a good start but had trouble matching the Ravens’ energy, having played six games in 12 days. Auburn Mountainview struggled from the field, missing shots the fueled AR’s transition game.
But third-year coach Matt Sinnes made no excuses following the home loss.
“They came out and threw punches at us, and we weren’t ready to play,” Sinnes said. “Hat’s off to them. Kevin’s kids played their tails off. They were dialed in and executed the plan that he wanted done for them. Unfortunately, we couldn’t put the ball in the hole, and we seemed a little lethargic tonight.
“We have a ton of respect for Kevin and his staff,” Sinnes said. “We came in knowing that they would have a good game plan for us. … I’ve always felt they are the best-coached team in the league. Kevin always gets his guys ready to go, and being a rivalry game we knew it was going to be tough.”
Still, Auburn Mountainview will be in the playoff fight. Sinnes’ teams know no other way.
The Lions started a three-guard look of seniors Que Daniels and Sam Borovets and junior Earl Kameron. Salauta Savusa, a 5-10 sophomore, also started. Down low, the team looks to 6-3 junior Keanu Mailoto and 6-2 senior Brandon Miguel. Ayub Mirreh, a 6-1 senior wing, provides some punch off the bench.
“I think we are a playoff team but we have some things to fix. We have new guys and inexperience,” Sinnes said. “In our league, every game is a playoff. We could lose to anybody, we can beat anybody on any given night, especially this year. … We just have to show up and give a better effort.”
Auburn Mountainview 64, Auburn Riverside 34: Junior guard Hayley Flores score 22 points, draining six 3-pointers, and freshman guard Maliyah Elliott added 16 as the Lions routed the Ravens on Friday night.
Jenna Lacey finished with 12 points for the Lions (2-1, 2-2).
Carol Chikusa led the Ravens (0-3, 0-5) with 11 points. Chloe Furnstahl and Stephanie Igwala each had eight.