By John Anderson
Things got a little crazy around Auburn Middle School last Wednesday for their basketball teams. A scheduling error had the final games listed for Thursday, but at 2:00pm, Athletic Director Brian Davis informed the coaches that game day was Wednesday. Tantasqua, in fact, was about to board the bus. Frantic phone calls were made to parents to tell them of the change and to please bring in uniforms.
At this point, both Rocket teams were 13-1, with the boys losing a tight game to Oxford. The girls, on the other hand, had an 8-point loss to Tantasqua earlier in the season, and this game was a “must win” in their minds. It was also the last middle school game for grade 8 students Mick Sampson, Liv Mathews, Emily Flaherty, Julia Lussier and Ashley Fazio.
The boys played Tantasqua neck and neck the entire game. With just 13 seconds left in regulation, Auburn nailed a 3 pointer to tie the game at 35. The defense held for the final seconds, and the gamme went to overtime.
In overtime, Auburn managed to hold Tantasqua to just one point, and came away with the win, 41-36 to finish the season at 14-1.
With anxiety levels high, Coach Nathalie Khafaga gathered the team in the library to calm them down and settle some nerves. She said they were really flustered and that reflected on the court in the first half. The usually dominant Rockets were tied 9-9 after one quarter but were down 17-13 at the half.
Auburn pulled ahead of the Warriors in the third quarter which ended 24-23. With 2:35 left in the game, the Rockets’ lead was 3 points, but a Tantasqua free throw made it a 2-point game. Since there is no shot clock at the new middle school (It’s not required for this level of play.), Auburn took over a minute off the clock by dribbling and passing.
A jump ball gave Tantasqua possession with 47 seconds left, but they weren’t successful against the persistent Rocket defense. At 21.4 seconds, Calie Messina was fouled and made the score 29-26 with one good free throw. Messina was fouled again at 2.2 seconds, and when the Warriors had their final possession, .3 seconds were on the clock. Despite a good heave down court, the clock ran out on Tantasqua. The Auburn girls were now 14-1, a spectacular end to a spectacular season.
Coach Khafaga couldn’t have been more pleased with this performance and the season in general. When asked about coaching at this age group, the Coach responded, “They’re very open to coaching at this age. They listen and are willing to make changes.”
Kasey Simmons led the team with 8 points including two impressive 3’s, and Liv Mathews and Calie Messina each scored 7. Zoe Picard put up 4 points while Rachel Ullstrom had 2 and Mick Sampson had 1.