PUYALLUP — Maybe a close game was what the Auburn High School boys basketball team needed.
What the Trojans, the No. 2 seeded Class 3A team, didn’t need or want was a regional loss.
But that’s what Auburn (23-2) got Friday night at Puyallup High School, with No. 7 seed Mt. Spokane (21-5) rallying from a 10-point deficit to pull off a 69-58 upset.
The game was in question with 30 seconds left. Auburn had the ball while trailing 62-58, but the Trojans turned it over. Mt. Spokane’s Chapel Smith hit his fourth three-pointer of the fourth quarter with 17 seconds remaining to end the suspense.
The loss cost Auburn a first-round bye in the 12-team tournament at the Tacoma Dome next week. The Trojans will play Kennewick, which beat Lake Washington 61-54 on Friday, in a loser-out game Wednesday at 10:30 a.m.
It was a surprising loss considering how Auburn has been so dominant, with its only loss being a 62-53 decision against No. 1 Garfield.
All but one of the Trojans’ wins were by double digits, but even that does not tell the whole story. Seventeen of Auburn’s 23 wins have been by at least 30 points and 10 have been by 50 or more.
The Trojans had nearly doubled their opponents’ scoring, with 2,051 points to 1,064. That is what Mt. Spokane from Mead was up against.
Auburn’s offensive firepower was on full display in the first quarter as took a 23-13 lead. It looked like another rout was possible.
But not so fast.
Mt. Spokane, the only non-Metro League team since 2011 to play in the state title game (losing to O’Dea in 2019) showed it was not intimidated by the fast start, rallying to tie the score at 33 heading into halftime.
Ryan Lafferty converted a layup just before the buzzer to send the Wildcats into the break with the momentum.
“Yes, we were (worried),” said Mt. Spokane coach David Wagenblast after his team fell behind by 10 points after a quarter. “They are a phenomenal basketball team. And offensively, if they get up 10 that’s a huge deficit for how well they score the basketball. … Once we got a couple of stops and we were able to score, we got some confidence ourselves.”
Auburn scored the first basket of the third quarter before the Wildcats went on an 11-0 run take a 45-36 lead.
The Trojans turned up the pressure and scored the next seven points before a late bucket by Mt. Spokane gave it a 47-43 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Auburn scored first in the final quarter, then missed a chance to take the lead. The Wildcats then responded with an 11-2 run — the first nine points coming on three Smith three-pointers — to take a 58-47 lead with 4:32 left.
“I am so excited for that kid,” Wagenblast said of Smith. “He is a captain of our team and for him to step up and have a moment like that, it is very exciting.”
The Trojans closed to 60-57 by forcing turnovers with their pressure but could not come all the way back.
Turnovers, missed layups and a missed dunk certainly didn’t help Auburn.
Wagenblast certainly did not lose any respect for the Trojans, and he expects them to be a force in Tacoma.
“They are really good and they are phenomenal in ball pressure and pressing — they are a great team,” Wagenblast said. “Auburn, they are not going anywhere. They will just get an extra game is all.”
Trevon Blasingame scored 21 to lead Auburn and Maleek Arington scored 13.
Lafferty scored 18 and Smith had 16 for the Wildcats, who will play Thursday in Tacoma after earning a first-round bye.