After a basketball season that often resembled a roller coaster ride, the Auburn High varsity boys ended with a 65-58 loss to Oxford last Monday in the Preliminary Round of the MIAA Central D3 Tournament. While this was a huge disappointment, it was terrific to see the Rockets back in the tournament for the first time in 4 years.
It was also great that the game that earned them a tournament spot was the upset victory over Quabbin in the Clark, an invitation that hadn’t come in 4 years as well.
Coach Andy Niedzwiecki said, “We’ve been very, very competitive. In the second half of the season, we created an environment that was special.” That’s been apparent to fans as well, but limitations like a short bench hurt Auburn in the final moments of several matches.
What also hurt was the foot injury to senior Tyler Judice who, despite missing the last eight games, remains 4th in SWCL-A with 12.5 points per game. Not far behind is senior Matty Backlin in 9th with 9.7PPG. Sophomores Coleman Picard and Cam Bolduc each had 6.5 while seniors Craigon Confer had 6.2 and Max Joncas had 5.2. These five young men played most of the minutes at the end of the season, and each should be very proud of his contributions.
The Oxford game was tied 11-11 after one quarter and 26-26 at the half. Auburn was in the bonus in the 3rd which ended with a 44-42 Rocket lead. With 4 minutes left, and Auburn in the double bonus, the Pirates scored 3 to tie the game 49-49.
Oxford jumped ahead, but at 1:07, a basket by Backlin tied it 58-58. That, unfortunately, would be the Rockets final points as the aggressive Pirates benefitted from some desperate Auburn fouls and some good shooting.
In the end, Backlin had 21 points and Picard had 19. Bolduc scored 8 points, Joncas had 5, Confer had 3, and Jason Henry put up 2.
Niedzwiecki summed up the final game, “These are the games that are very special to work with these kids.” A great season of overcoming adversity!