In the semifinals of the state tournament Auburn wins Seattle Prep

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Auburn players celebrate with the student section after defeating Seattle Prep, 45-34, in a semi-final state tournament match of Class 3A on Friday, March 4, 2022, at the Tacoma Dome, in Tacoma, Washington.

pcaster@thenewstribune.com

As middle school students, Malik Arington, De’Kwon Watson, Tre Blasingheim and Kaden Hansen together won the state tournament in Spokane, playing for the Auburn High School basketball program.

Now they are all seniors at Auburn High and they are going together to try to win another one. For the first time in the history of the school Auburn will play in the state championship in class 3A on Saturday night in Tacoma Doom, after winning the semifinals on Friday night with a score of 45-34.

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Auburn celebrates after striker Tyrell Nichols (13) scored a three-pointer from the corner as Seattle goalkeeper Nirvaan Misra (25) runs around the court during the third quarter of the semi-final state Class 3A tournament on Friday, March 4, 2022, in Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington Pete Custer pcaster@thenewstribune.com

“For me, it means the whole world,” said Blasingheim, who scored nine points and six rebounds. “Doing it for the first time, doing it for the city means so much to me. I couldn’t be happier. «

This is not a collection of transferred students from other schools abandoned along with the sole purpose of raising the trophy. This group went through everything together, from joint games in high school, to the fact that they first reached Kupala as promising sophomores and lost in the first round, to the fact that their junior postseason was canceled due to a pandemic.

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The Auburn players take to the court at the start of the second quarter of the semifinal state Class 3A tournament against Seattle Prep on Friday, March 4, 2022, at the Tacoma Dome, in Tacoma, Washington. Pete Custer pcaster@thenewstribune.com

The appearance of Saturday’s game in the championship was long overdue.

“It’s just authenticity,” Blasingheim said. “We’ve been grinding together for years, this has been our goal in our high school career. Seeing this finally happen is madness. We work so hard, we deserve to be here, and we knew we would be here all the time. ”

In the first half against Seattle Prep, neither team was able to generate many attacks, and Seattle Prep held a 17-14 advantage in the half. In the game Garfield the day before, Auburn’s junior guard Tyrell Nichols did not leave the bench until overtime. He made the biggest blow of his life, a three-pointer that gave Auburn a lead he didn’t give up.

On Friday, Nichols got his number earlier by coming off the bench in the first half. Again in the third quarter, he entered the game, immediately making an impact by scoring a pair of 3 points and a lapping to give Auburn a 31-23 lead, leading in the fourth quarter.

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Auburn guard Malik Arrington (3) celebrates after scoring a three-pointer in the fourth quarter of the semifinal state tournament of Class 3A against Seattle Prep on Friday, March 4, 2022, at Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, Washington. Pete Custer pcaster@thenewstribune.com

“I think he gained confidence last night,” Auburn coach Ryan Hansen said with a smile. “He was just ready for his moment and showed it again tonight and I’m really proud of him.”

About that confidence: Nichols said it always has been.

“I’ve always had confidence,” he said. “I just didn’t really play yesterday. It was a tough game, so I understand what my coach is doing. When he put me down, I knew what to do. I’ve been working all my life, so I’m just using my skills. “

Then it was the turn of senior guard Malik Arrington. He scored seven of 12 points in the fourth quarter, attacking the rim.

“We challenged Malik to be aggressive, to go down, and he took it to heart and had some important moments for us,” Hansen said.

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Auburn guard Trevon Blasingheim (2) is trying to strike down a Seattle Prep defender during the second quarter of the semifinal state Class 3A tournament on Friday, March 4, 2022, at Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, Washington. Pete Custer pcaster@thenewstribune.com

When the clock showed zero, Auburn scored in Seattle training for just 34 points, 38.7 percent shooting from the field and just 16.7 percent from a 3-point distance.

“Every time we go outside, we say it’s a mind game,” Watson said. “We always talk about defense, make sure we know our staff, make sure we do the right thing in defense and make sure we chase each other in a mental game. Everything is mental. “

In the championship Auburn will meet the winner of the game Mount Spokane against Rainier Beach.

“It was a dream for these guys, they worked very hard,” Hansen said.

John Manley covers high school sports for The News Tribune. Winner of the McClatchy President’s Award and a graduate of the University of Gonzaga, Manley has been covering the South Sound sports scene since 2013. Born and raised in Tacoma.

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