By John Anderson

For a month and a half at the start of every summer, Auburn fields a team of high school players in the Auburn Boys Basketball Summer League. This is like an early preview of what might happen in December as high schools from around Worcester Country participate, 20 in total. Bob “Mooch” Muir has directed the program for 34 years and shows his love for basketball 3-4 nights a week at the Horgan Arena courts.

Many Auburn athletes play 2 or 3 sports in each academic year, and it’s easy to get rusty at one sport while playing another. Summer leagues give the boys an opportunity to keep their skills up while having some fun. All Freshman, Junior Varsity and Varsity players are encouraged to participate.

This year’s coach is 2012 AHS graduate and former varsity basketball player Mike Mello. Mike will be a junior at Merrimack College in the fall, and he understands the type of game Coach Andy Niedzwiecki expects at the varsity level. MIAA rules don’t allow high school coaches to work directly with their teams in the off-season. Coach Mello said, “I think the high school program is moving in the right direction.”

Coming into Tuesday night’s game, Auburn was 3-5 and they needed a win to make the playoffs. Leicester only had 4 available players, and using an unrostered fifth meant an acknowledged forfeit before the game began. But, everyone wanted to play. Leicester had a lot of height, and they played hard. Some of Auburn’s smaller players certainly showed some brawn as they pushed against guys 8-10 inches taller.

Despite the imbalance, Auburn worked the ball well and led 18-16 at the end of the first 20-minute half. Leicester came out strong in the second and jumped to a lead. Some 3’s helped in the Rockets’ game, and that may be a good sign for next winter. Despite a late rally, Auburn was behind 35-34 at the final whistle, but this was a forfeit. The final score was 36-35, Auburn.

Auburn faces last year’s champion Quaboag tonight and will not advance without another win. Coach Mello assessed the season so far, “Everyone’s working hard.” “Auburn players don’t accept losing.” Good luck!

Auburn Mass Daily will be stopping by the high school tonight to see Auburn face North in the Auburn Girls Basketball Summer League.