Lancer boys fall at Auburn
By Chuck Mingori
The Kennedy Catholic boys’ basketball team opened strong against Auburn Wednesday night. The upset-minded Lancers built an early lead after one quarter. The taller Trojans battled back with a barrage of three-pointers. The Lancers were shooting lights out from a distance as well.
But in the end, Kennedy (13-9) slipped into a loser-out game Friday, Feb. 14, at Foss School against Auburn Riverside (!5-8) after losing 63-48 to top-seeded Auburn (21-3) on the Trojans’ home court.
The final score was not indicative of the West Central District mid-week match-up, as Kennedy had the upper hand early on and then rode a wave of momentum in the second half that just was not quite enough.
“We played hard,” said Kennedy coach Don Hoffman. “They’re a good team. They shot really well, but we competed well and I’m really proud of our guys. We were lacking some of the size that they have. But we’re still alive. We just need to put this behind us and get a win.”
The Lancers need a win against Auburn-Riverside and to add one more victory on Monday to keep their season alive and earn a seat in the regional tournament.
Kennedy did its best to take down Auburn, despite the deadly shooting of the Trojans. Kennedy guards Jamare’ Childs and Reece McAllister joined the shooting contest early as the pair traded three-point baskets with the opponent to start the game.
AJ Keys worked his way into the scoring act as he sank the next Lancer long-range missile. By the time Samuel Strauss buried the fourth Kennedy three-pointer of the quarter, just before the buzzer, the Lancers led 18-12.
That lead disappeared quickly in the second quarter, however, as the Trojans tallied three straight three-pointers against the Kennedy zone defense to complete a streak of seven to start the game. They led 21-18 before Reece countered for Kennedy to tie the score at 21-21 on his second triple of the evening.
The Trojans were having such good fortune from the outside that Dae’Kwon Watson watched one of his five three-pointers bank in straight off the glass.
The Lancers did not go away as they came out strong to open the second half and used a trapping defense to put pressure on the Auburn ballhandlers.
First team all-league guard Chancellor Hilliard, held to six points in the first half, caught fire in the third quarter. His three-pointer brought the Lancers back to within 34-32. Shane Aleaga came off the bench to spark his team with hustling and strong inside play.
The Trojans responded in kind by rebuilding a lead up to 49-38. A three-point basket by Childs narrowed the gap to 49-41 going into the fourth quarter.
Kennedy drew first blood in the fourth quarter as McAlister and Hilliard’s three-pointers brought the Lancers back to trail by two. A three-point attempt by Strauss rattled in and out and would have given Kennedy the lead in the final quarter.
The momentum swung back to Auburn and Kennedy could not keep up the pace in the late going as the Trojans went on a 14-1 scoring run to end the game.
“We didn’t have the energy,” the Kennedy coach explained. “We’re not as deep as they are.”
Watson led Auburn in scoring with 21 points followed by Trevon Blassingame with 13 and Maleek Arrington 11.
Hilliard led the Lancer scoring attack with 20 points while also grabbing six rebounds to go along with a number of assists and steals. Childs and McAlister each finished with 11 points; Keys and Strauss added three points apiece. Auburn’s outside game led to 10 three-pointers against the Kennedy zone defense. The Lancers made their share of outside shots to finish with eight three-pointers in the game. The Trojans went 10-for-12 at the free-throw line. Kennedy was 4 of 8.
Kennedy’s post- season began with wins over Todd Beamer (75-60) and Emerald Ridge (71-28) leading up to the Auburn game. The Lancers will need another pair of W’s to keep their season alive. The 4A regionals and state tournaments will take place at the Tacoma Dome Feb. 28-March 7.