By John Anderson
At the end of each of the first three different quarters on Wednesday night, Auburn trailed Notre Dame Academy. But they were ahead in the only quarter that really mattered, the final one.
The girls’ quarterfinal basketball victory advances the Rockets in their post season, and beating the tough Rebels was a fine way to start the tournament. Auburn was seeded fifth in MIAA Central Division 2 after losing to Notre Dame (#4) in the regular season. Both teams came into playoffs with 14-6 records.
Notre Dame took early control of the game with some excellent shooting and favorable whistles. At the end of the first quarter, Auburn was down 12, 26-14. This was reminiscent of the February 10th game, when the Rockets lost to the Rebels 60-50.
With 1:09 left in the second, Erin Burke sank a free throw to bring the Rockets within 3 points. At 24 seconds, the score was 34-31, but a final Rebel free throw put the home team up 35-31.
During halftime, Coach Ellen Kaschuluk said she urged the girls to “limit the turnovers.” Judging from the second half, this pep talk worked.
The third quarter was scoreless for over 2 minutes as neither team could find the net. At 5:59, Amber Abderrazzaq dropped 2 free throws followed by a Lyndsey Gabrielian basket, and the Rockets had themselves a tied ballgame.
At 4:02, Ryanne Burke got fouled as she scored, and her free throw gave the Rockets their first lead, 38-35. Notre Dame retook the lead, but another Gabrielian basket with mere seconds on the clock narrowed the Rebel lead to one, 45-44.
With 5:48 left in the fourth, a Rebel 3-pointer tied the game 49-49. At 2:59, and with Notre Dame in the double bonus, Gabrielian shot 1 for 2 from the line. Erin Burke was then fouled and she sank both free throws putting Auburn up 56-55.
Emily Sarkisian is known for coming through at critical moments, and at 2:06 she did just that by draining a 3. She was then fouled on a jump shot in the paint and hit 1 of 2 from the line giving Auburn the lead at 62-56.
At 1:20, Notre Dame answered with a 3, but that would be their last score. Back-to-back shots by Erin Burke quelled any Rebel uprising, and a final basket made it 68-59.
Coach Kaschuluk said this was a “fun game.” During recent practices, the team was told, “Even if we get down, stay composed.” Good advice.
Kaschuluk credits the team’s success to a “balance of leadership” and she recognized two high performing underclassmen, junior Erin Burke and sophomore Emily Sarkisian. “We can’t ask for more.”
Auburn outshot Notre Dame 7-5 in 3-pointers and 19-8 in free throws as they took advantage from the line. Gabrielian led with 22 points including 4 from outside. Erin Burke was close behind with 17, and Sarkisian had 10 including a 3. Abderrazzaq scored 8 points while Ryanne Burke had 7 including two 3’s. Nathalie Khafaga added 4 more.
Auburn will face their nemesis, #1 ranked Nashoba (20-0), in the Central Division 2 Semi-Final on Sunday, 1:30pm, at Fitchburg State. The Rockets fell to Nashoba in last year’s final, and they lost in the regular season, 83-54. Third time’s a charm ladies.