By John Anderson
It was no “one and done” this time around as the boys won the first round of the MIAA D3 Central Basketball Tournament. Whitinsville Christian School (WCS) played a solid game at both ends of the court, but they couldn’t match the Rockets’ barrage.
Auburn’s zone defense with regular double-teaming worked well except for the Crusader’s lobbed passes from one side of the court to the other. This accounted for many of their points and some well placed 3’s. WCS put the first points up with one of these 3’s and they got 5 more during the game.
The first quarter ended with Auburn up 12-8, and WCS secured a lead in the second. Halfway through the 2nd, Auburn was in foul trouble as they tried to slow down the Crusaders. Having a third referee netted a lot more whistles with that extra set of eyes. With 25 seconds on the clock, Mike Jankowski hit one from the line and tied the game at 22 apiece.
As the ball moved to the other end, Conor Scully made a shooting foul, but WCS would miss both free throws. DJ Scavone rebounded and made a 3 with a few seconds left, 25-22 in the Rockets’ favor.
By 3:18 in the third quarter, Auburn had climbed to a 35-28 lead after Ryan Kozlowski and Mike Thomas made 3-pointers. The Rockets outscored the Crusaders 14-6, and the third ended 39-28.
While WCS would add 14 points in the fourth, Auburn added 15, many from free throws as the Crusaders went into foul mode. At the final buzzer, the Rockets had a 54-42 victory and their first playoff win in 7 years.
All team members who got on the court contributed to this win, but it was the seniors who made the difference on the scoreboard. Scavone led with 25 points, and Kozlowski had 12. Thomas and Jankowski each had 7, and Adam Gustafson had 3.
Coach Andrew Niedzwiecki attributed this victory to “more contributions from other players” and “a decent job on the boards.” On Thursday, the Rockets will travel to Ashland to face the number one seeded team. After a sound defeat in January, the coach knows all too well that Ashland is one tough team. But so is Auburn these days.