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Auburn falls to Jackson 58-53 in state regionals
Auburn's three-game postseason winning streak and its basketball season came to end Saturday with a 58-53 loss to Jackson in the first round of the state regional playoffs.
Playing on a hostile court at Jackson High School in Mill Creek against the No. 2 Timberwolves, the unranked Trojans were unable to recover from an early first-quarter hole, with Jackson starting the game with an 18-0 run.
Jackson improved to 24-0. Auburn finished the season 16-10.
"We always preach the importance of a great start and we just didn't do that," Auburn coach Ryan Hansen said. "They set the tone with physicality and their presence on the boards."
After ending the first quarter down 18-3, the Trojans adjusted by ratcheting up their defensive pressure and finding their stride offensively in the second quarter. Auburn outscored the Timberwolves 16-8 in the second period to pull within seven, with the score 26-19 at the intermission.
"We went into our full-court press and that seemed to slow them down a bit," Hansen said. "Two players who really turned the table for us came off the bench. (Junior) Rio Paul provided our offensive spark. I think he scored our first seven points for us."
Hansen added that senior Demontra McNealy's defensive presence aided in the Trojans' comeback.
In the second half, Auburn continued to claw its way back into the game, closing to within two points in the fourth quarter.
The Trojans, however were unable to close the gap completely, with Jackson punching its ticket to this weekend's state 4A Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome.
"We played really hard and we competed hard the rest of the game," Hansen said. "You look back and just wish we had that first quarter back."
Senior Harold Lee had 14 points to lead the Trojans. Laquell Simmons and Spencer Fisher, both seniors, had 13 points apiece and Paul chipped in with 9.
Jackson junior Jason Todd had a game-high 21 points and 18 rebounds and was 12-of-12 from the free-throw line. Junior Connor Willgress had 15.
"You can't take away anything from this team (Auburn) though," Hansen said. "They were down by 18 points and they never gave up. That speaks to the character of this team and the way they've played all season."