By John Anderson

Quaboag feels the pressure in the fourth quarter as Erin Burke and Jess Clifford prevent the ball from moving. ©John R. Anderson

Quaboag feels the pressure in the fourth quarter as Erin Burke and Jess Clifford prevent the ball from moving. ©John R. Anderson

Auburn girls basketball defeated Quaboag 52-39 last Thursday in one of the best comebacks this writer has ever seen (similar to Seattle last night).

Quaboag does not have the team they had in past years, but they showed up in Auburn last Thursday ready to play some ball. With five minutes left in the first quarter, Erin Burke hit a three for Auburn’s first points, but they were still behind, 5-3.

Auburn lagged 13-9 after the first quarter and 24-16 at the half. At this point, the referees were losing control of the game. The break gave the refs a moment to relax and refueled the Rockets, and they came out of the locker room a different team.

The Rockets outscored the Cougars 10-4 in the third quarter but were still behind 28-26 at the end despite a brief 25-24 lead after 2 points from Colleen Cutting. The scoring wasn’t the difference, however, since the Auburn defense had kicked it up a couple of notches.

Pressure in the backcourt made all the difference. In the fourth, Quaboag could barely inbound the ball, and the frequent turnovers under their basket were astounding. In the process, Auburn accumulated some fouls, but it was the Cougars in the bonus with 51.1 seconds left.

In the final minute, Cutting put up 2 to make it 48-39. Emily Sarkisian stole the ball in the paint and scored 2 more. Finally, Burke was fouled and made both free throws to seal the game, 52-39.

Coach Ellen Kaschuluk said, “The game plan was to put a ton of pressure on their guards.” And, that they did with 18 steals in the second half.

Kaschuluk commented, “ We were working on our press all week. Burke was moved to the side on Quaboag’s inbounds to block.” Her height and long reach were more than effective. The Coach labeled her team’s play “focused aggressiveness.”

The Rockets were also stellar on the offensive end. After 9 turnovers in the first half, they had only 2 in the second. Burke led the team with 23 points and Sarkisian followed with 13. Cutting had 9, and Jess Clifford had 7.

The aggressive defense in the second half only netted the Rockets 5 fouls, and the result was stunning. Although hard to maintain, this defense is the stuff that championship teams are made of.