What looked like a laugher turned into a boys basketball game befitting a battle for the South Puget Sound League's North Division last night. After racing to a double-digit lead...

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KENT — What looked like a laugher turned into a boys basketball game befitting a battle for the South Puget Sound League’s North Division last night.


After racing to a double-digit lead in the first half, ninth-ranked Kent-Meridian hung on for a 58-53 win over visiting Auburn and took over sole possession of the league lead.


Senior guard Steffan Johnson scored 21 points as the Royals improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the SPSL North.


It wasn’t easy, as the Trojans (3-2, 2-1) scrambled back after falling behind 30-16 in a flurry of second-quarter turnovers.


“Our game plan was to control the tempo,” said K-M coach Dan Finkley, whose squad forced 14 turnovers in the first half. “I think it almost backfired on us because we kind of ran out of gas.”


Auburn, with just one senior starter on a roster that includes two freshmen and two sophomores, could have made the same argument.


The Trojans’ five starters played all but one minute of the first half and were limited by foul trouble in the second.


But Auburn stayed within striking distance behind the inside work of 6-foot-3 sophomore Aaron Casad, who matched Johnson with a game-high 21 points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.


Casad doubled his season average of 10.5 points per game.


“We’re not a big team,” said Keiran Nunley, who had 11 points and a team-high nine rebounds for K-M while dueling Casad down low. “He was doing a job on us.”


Johnson scored 11 points in the opening quarter as Kent-Meridian took an 18-12 lead.


The Royals then threatened to run away with the game while forcing eight turnovers in the second quarter. Marcus Graham, who scored 12 points, had a pair of three-point plays following two of K-M’s six steals in the period.


But Auburn finished the period on an 8-2 run, capped by junior Nick Dayton’s buzzer-beating three-pointer, to close to 32-24 at halftime.


Brok Pendleton contributed 14 points and five assists — mostly to Casad — for Auburn. Teammate Noble’D Shelton overcame early foul trouble to add 12 points for the Trojans.