Auburn’s Amar Rivers and Kentwood’s Logan Stempniak reach for a rebound during play Friday night. RACHEL CIAMPI, Auburn Reporter

Auburn’s Amar Rivers and Kentwood’s Logan Stempniak reach for a rebound during play Friday night. RACHEL CIAMPI, Auburn Reporter

Trojans run away from Conquerors, take league’s top seed to district playoffs

Rivers ignites run in second half to fuel 50-40 win

Auburn’s balancing act on the basketball court continues to produce a different leading role player at showtime.

On Friday, it was Amar Rivers’ turn to shine.

The 6-foot-5 junior guard scored 17 points – 12 of which came in the third quarter – as Auburn pulled away from Kentwood 50-40 at Bob Jones Gymnasium to secure the North Puget Sound League’s top seed to this week’s West Central/Southwest District playoffs.

Behind an equal-opportunity offense and suffocating defense, the Trojans take a 12-game winning streak into the playoffs.

Auburn, the NPSL Olympic Division champion at 20-3, hosts a first-round district playoff Wednesday against either Kennedy Catholic or Emerald Ridge. Tipoff is 7 p.m. Kentwood, the NPSL Casade Division champion at 13-8, also will open the district playoffs at home Wednesday against either Todd Beamer or South Kitsap. Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Rivers weaved his way through the Conquerors’ zone defense to sink jumpers, runners and when put on the line, key free throws.

“That’s what makes us special,” Auburn coach Ryan Hansen said. “We have so many guys who can score. On any given night, someone will step up, and tonight it was Amar.”

Rivers’ eyes light up when teams throw a zone. He welcomes the challenge and thrives in the high-post area, his sweet spot to launch his shot.

“It was fun. I love playing against that defense,” he said. “That’s my favorite shot, so if they’re going to leave me open, I’m going to hit it.”

Auburn had a supporting cast. Sophomore Maleek Arington had 14 points and Dae’Kwon Watson, another sophomore, finished with 10.

Cameron Williams scored 12 points and Alphonse Oywak had 11 to lead the Conquerors.

Kentwood, playing without two of its top scorers because of injuries, made it difficult early, keeping Auburn in check throughout a rugged and ragged first half that ended 18-18.

The game remained tight until late in the third quarter.

Trailing 32-31, Auburn went ahead for good when Rivers drew a foul and a Kentwood player was whistled for a technical foul with 33.6 seconds remaining in the period. Rivers calmly sank all four free throws.

The technical foul and subsequent free throws proved to be a turning point in the game, triggering a 14-0 Auburn run that stretched well into the fourth quarter.

“We just unraveled,” said Kentwood coach Blake Solomon. “We got the foul and the technical. … We go from up one to down five, and our psyche was out a little bit. And then we couldn’t score and that compounded it … a snowball effect. You can’t give away points in playoffs.”

An Arington put-back bucket beat the buzzer, extending the Trojans’ lead to 37-32.

In the fourth quarter, Kentwood went cold as Auburn made eight consecutive stops to build a 13-point lead midway in the period.

The Conquerors scored their first points in the period on Oywak’s three-point play with 2:37 left in the game.

Hansen likes his young bunch, a cast of players who play well beyond their years.

“We have a group of guys who can all put it on the floor, who can all shoot it,” Hansen said. “And they’re unselfish. They’re tough to guard. They all make that extra pass. They can get into seams and draw defenders.”

A group that hopes to have one of its primary players back for the district playoffs. Trevon Blassingame, a 6-5 sophomore, is on the mend, nursing a knee injury, and may be ready to play this week, Hansen said.

“It’ll be a boost for sure because he’s a talented player,” Hansen said of the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. “He’s our vocal leader … we definitely missed having him out there.”

Auburn is poised for a deep run at district.

“Time will tell,” Hansen said. “It’s the way we defend, they way we share (the ball) and shoot it. I would throw us into the mix. … We will make a run at it.

“These kids are not going to shy away from the challenge.”


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

Auburn’s Maleek Arington drives for two. RACHEL CIAMPI, Auburn Reporter

Auburn’s Maleek Arington drives for two. RACHEL CIAMPI, Auburn Reporter

More in Sports

Emerald Downs to increase horse racing purses by 10% in 2022

Second consecutive year of 10% increase at Auburn track

A Decatur High School student in Federal Way participates in a conditioning workout in Feb. 2021 as the state eased back in to in-person activities. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
State announces mask requirements for student sports, performing arts

Athletes are not required to wear masks when participating in sports of any contact level while outside.

Harrison Maurus. Courtesy of Team USA.
Auburn’s Harrison Maurus takes fourth place in Olympics

Weightlifter places the highest of any American man in 30 years.

Screenshot of video obtained by Redmond police shows Richard Sherman trying to break into the Redmond home of his in-laws.
Former Seattle Seahawks player Richard Sherman charged with five misdemeanors in King County

Charges were filed following an incident at home of Sherman’s in-laws in Redmond.

Screenshot
Redmond Police arrest former Seattle Seahawk Richard Sherman

Redmond Police allege former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman crashed into a… Continue reading

Snoqualmie Casino unveiled the first immersive Seahawks-branded table game experience Sept. 18, 2020, in a ribbon cutting dedication with Snoqualmie Tribe Council members and Snoqualmie Casino executives. Courtesy photo
Gambling Commission OKs pacts with tribes for sports betting

Agreements with 15 tribes await approval by the governor and the feds.

The Emerald Downs horse racing track will reopen May 19 with a limited number of fans allowed. COURTESY PHOTO, Emerald Downs
Emerald Downs to allow fans this horse racing season

At 25% capacity under state guidelines; fans were banned last year due to COVID-19

Kentwood High football. FILE PHOTO
WIAA Executive Board revises Season 1 sports in response to state guidelines

Practices scheduled to begin Feb. 1 for football, volleyball, soccer and 5 other sports

The Mercer Island boys basketball celebrates their 61-36 victory over Interlake in the 3A KingCo championship game on Feb. 11, 2020, at Sammamish High School. File photo
WIAA pushes back return to play for prep sports

Season 2 now begins Feb. 1 and seasons have been shortened to seven weeks each.

file photo
Emerald Downs had an average daily handle of $1.79 million during a shortened 2020 season that concluded Oct. 29. The average daily handle last season was $1.1 million. Fans were not allowed at the races, including during this photo from opening day.
Emerald Downs concludes season with daily wagering up 61% over last year

Off-track fans bet average of $1.79 million per day during 38-day session

In this file photo from March 2020, the Federal Way High School boys basketball team reacts in the final minutes of the state quarterfinals game against Mt. Si High School. File photo
New guidelines released for return of prep sports in WA

The new plan places counties and sports in three-tier systems. No signs of a quicker return to play.