Returning from injury, Arington was a key player in Auburn’s post-season run

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Auburn guard Malik Arrington (3) scores in the basket when Seattle Prep striker Neven Marinkovic (24) defends during the first quarter of the semifinal game of the state Class 3A tournament on Friday, March 4, 2022, at Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, Washington. .

pcaster@thenewstribune.com

Every time Auburn High School added an advantage in the fourth quarter on Friday at the Tacoma Dome, a faint smile flashed across the face of senior guard Malik Arington as he rushed into defense.

The moment that this experienced Trojans team had been waiting for for several years was approaching.

When the beep sounded, concluding Auburn’s a serious 45-34 victory over Seattle Prep in the state’s 3A semifinals, Arrington, who started his second season, joined his team for the holiday.

The moment this band has been waiting for so long? Finally here. On Saturday night, the Trojans (26-2) will play with long-serving state number 4 Rainier Beach (21-4) at the 3A State Championships. The victory will give Auburn his first title in school history.

“I can’t even handle it right now,” Arrington said minutes after the win, which gave the program its first appearance in the title game. “We worked so hard to get here, and now we’re just focused on our next game.

“We won this game, but we didn’t come here for that. So we have another one. ”

One more thing.

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Auburn guard Malik Arrington (3) looks over his shoulder as Seattle Prep striker Jack Welling (34) captures a missed shot by Arrington during the first quarter of the semifinal game of the state Class 3A tournament on Friday, March 4, 2022, at Tacoma Dome, Tacoma, Wash Pete Custer pcaster@thenewstribune.com

This group of senior Auburn, which includes Arrington, Tre Blasingheim, Caden Hansen and De’Kwon Watson in their starting five, was have been preparing for this since high school.

They first appeared at Tacoma Dome in sophomore year, but were dropped out on the opening day of Tournament 4A with the defeat of Olympia.

They were expected to be contenders for the 3A title last season, but the state tournament was never played due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

They dominated their 3A North Puget Sound League schedule this winter, won the 3A West Central / South-West bidistrict of 3A West Central / South-West title and lost just two defeats on their way to defending Garfield champion in the holiday tournament, and then against № 7 Mount Spokane in state regions last week.

These losses were eliminated inside the Tacoma Dome when the Trojans cruised № 15 Kenevik then in the first round on Wednesday upset previously undefeated bulldogs number 1 in an overtime thriller On Thursday in the quarterfinals before the semifinals victory over Seattle Prep.

“It means a lot,” Arrington said. “We went to the second year, we lost in a game that lost in the first round, so we built up. Last season we didn’t even have a chance at that.

“So just being here and being able to win games and get closer to our goal is very important.”

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Auburn guard Malik Arrington (3) scores in the basket between Seattle training guard Braden Smith (22) and guardian Dylan Hoffman (11) during the fourth quarter of the semi-final state tournament of Class 3A on Friday, March 4, 2022, in Tacoma Dome, Tacoma Washington Pete Custer pcaster@thenewstribune.com

Perhaps this exciting post-season race is even a little sweeter for Arrington, whose senior season had its hurdles.

The Trojans opened the season with eight winning streaks, with Arrington as usual one of the key players. But when Garfield visited him in late December, he rose to sucks in the expected game between the best teams and fell to his knees.

Arrington missed most of the rest of the regular season – which covered 12 more games – but returned to the “Trojans” in time for the tournament.

“I was just undergoing rehab on the side to come back this time, which is the biggest part of the season,” he said.

“He worked very hard to get himself back,” Auburn coach Ryan Hansen said. “There’s a reason he’s back to playing and playing at a high level.”

Even during the games he was not on the field, Arrington still participated, supported his teammates and took the lead on the bench – knowing that the Trojans have the talent and depth to continue to win when he regained strength.

“I trust them very much,” he said. “I knew they would get to that point.”

Arrington, a double TNT All-Area selection, returned to the start in Auburn’s two-round match against Gig Harborand led the Trojans to victory by scoring 19 points.

“We are very happy that he is back,” Blasingham said. “I couldn’t be more grateful that he was my teammate and playmaker.”

This weekend Arington continued to produce at the Tacoma Dome.

He scored three points, seven rebounds, four assists and three interceptions on Wednesday in the win over Kenevik.

On Thursday in Garfield’s overtime, he scored 20 points while shooting 6 out of 11 and made 7 out of 10 attempts from the free throw line, adding five rebounds and five interceptions.

Then on Friday he took on a role in the fourth quarter, scoring seven of his team’s top 12 points in the quarter to help the Trojans achieve the victory that sent them to the title.

“Malik will always be Malik,” Blasingheim said. “He holds on when we need a bucket, and we know we can count on him.”

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Auburn goalkeeper Malik Arrington (3) makes an attempt to strike when Seattle striker Prep Austin Harnetia (44) defends during the second quarter of the semifinals of the state Class 3A tournament on Friday, March 4, 2022, in Tacoma Doom, Tacoma, Washington. Pete Custer pcaster@thenewstribune.com

Lauren Smith covers Washington University’s athletics for The News Tribune. She previously covered high school sports for TNT and The Olympian, starting in 2015, before moving into the Seattle Mariners fight before the 2019 season. She graduated from UW High School and Emerald Ridge.

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