By John Anderson
Although the girls came up short 29-31 against Millbury in Auburn’s Girls Basketball Summer League final, they had a terrific season. Their 11-4 record and consistent strong play got them to the final game despite the distractions of summer like family vacations and captains’ practices for other sports.
Less then two minutes into Thursday’s final, Emily Sarkisian dropped a 3 to start the game, but the Rockets soon stalled. Millbury racked up 14 points in the first half while the Auburn only managed another 4. While the defense was strong from both teams, the Woolies nearly shut down the Rockets for most of the first. Millbury should be credited with good ball movement and good shooting.
It took over half of the 20 minute second half for Auburn to narrow the gap and look alive. Erin Burke had back-to-back double foul shots to make the score 25-21 concluding with 8 minutes left. At 5:43, Colleen Cutting grabbed a rebound and scored to make it 26-23. Emily Sarkisian made it 28-26 after a basket, and later, a foul shot.
With less that 40 seconds left, Sarkisian stole the ball at the Millbury end and drove in for 2. Along the way, she was fouled and made it a 3-point play giving Auburn a 29-28 lead. There were seconds on the clock when Millbury’s Keryn Reno dropped a 3 and gave the Woolies the win and the championship.
During these last minutes, referee John O’Brien commented on the low foul count and how nice the girls were playing. It is not unusual for games between Auburn and Millbury to get a little chippy, and while this game was aggressive, it was clean. Hats off to both teams for this.
After the game, Coach Nathalie Khafaga thanked her players and recognized their “amazing improvement.” When asked about the varsity season in four months, she said, “They’ll do perfectly fine.”
This is a talented group of women, but only three seniors will be returning to the varsity squad: Erin Burke, Amanda Bylund, and Danielle Hearnlaye. Erin has already established herself as a full-game varsity player, and Danielle is looking more confident with every minute of playtime. Amanda did not play this summer due to recent surgery but should be ready to go for the school season.
What Auburn may lack in height, they make up for in speed and determination. Both Emily Sarkisian and Colleen Cutting can bring the ball from one end of the court to the other, and they can score in the paint. Two weaknesses persist for the Rockets, the lack of 3-point shooters and physicality. Although the new MIAA rules prevent some player-to-player contact, personal strength opens shooting opportunities and builds confidence in close quarters. Hit the gym.
Auburn Mass Daily looks to three more great seasons for the Auburn High School athletes. Go Rockets!