By John Anderson

When Auburn lost to Millbury in December, it was a tough game, and the better team (for that night) prevailed. When Tantasqua came to town last Thursday, another tough outing was in the works. In the end, Tantasqua would win 50-44, but this story is deeper.

The Warriors are athletic, aggressive and tall. That’s the luck of the draw sometimes, but they are also the beneficiaries of a generous MIAA alignment. Tantasqua has 1180 students with 565 girls, which is more than any school in D2 Central and more than any school in D2 West where they compete in the tournament.

Just because a school is larger does not mean they are better, but the fact is they have a larger group of students to pull from, 172 more girls than Auburn. This is why the MIAA goes through the alignment efforts.

The Warriors kept the Rockets off the scoreboard for over six minutes when Emily Sarkisian dropped her first three of the night. The first quarter would end 12-8 with the guests ahead on fouls as well, 4-1.

Tantasqua’s aggressive play came at a cost as they were in the bonus with five minutes left in the second. Still, Auburn managed only seven more points, and the half ended 25-15.

If it wasn’t for Auburn’s 3-pointers, they would not have been in this game at all, and Jess Clifford sank two in the third. Despite closing the gap now and then, the Warriors enjoyed a ten-point lead for most of the third and ended up 38-28. They were also up on fouls, 6-0.

Tantasqua was again in the bonus early in the fourth and the double bonus with 1:15 left. The Rockets were unable to capitalize on every free throw, which would have been a game changer.

Although Auburn had a solid fourth quarter and outscored Tantasqua 16-12, it wasn’t enough. The final score was 50-44. Several Auburn fouls in the last minutes sealed this game for the Warriors.

Coach Ellen Kaschuluk said when they face Tantasqua, “It’s always a battle.” “They’re a great team and they play hard.”

This game got a little bit out of control at times, and that added some frustration for the Rockets on top of the height issues. Auburn claimed only 3 rebounds in the first half.

Emily Sarkisian led the scoring with 17 points including four 3’s. Jess Clifford followed with 12 including two 3’s. Erin Burke had 9 with one 3, and Colleen Cutting had 6 with one 3 as well. No one else on the team scored.

The girls face Quaboag at home on Thursday night.