AUBURN, Mass. - Despite a phenomenal comeback Thursday night, the Auburn Rockets basketball team fell to Tantasqua Regional High School, 58-57.
The loss left them tied with Shepherd Hill for first place in SWCL Central, with league records of 9-5. Tantasqua finished 4-11, but the Warriors took it up a notch for their last league game of the regular season. Tantasqua's Corey Gatta led his team with 20 points. When these teams last met in January, Auburn took the upper hand 71-67.
"I hope we learned our last lesson," Auburn Coach Andy Niedzwiecki said. "We have to play all 32 minutes."
The Warriors came out strong on both ends of the court. Good shooting and a smothering defense put them up early, and the lead would last until the last minute of the game. Tantasqua was in the penalty mid way through the second quarter, but the Rockets did not capitalize enough. Rebounds were also not big for Auburn, and they seemed to abandon the paint after each shot. This game might have looked very different if the Rockets followed their shots as aggressively as Tantasqua did. The half ended 38-17 in the Warriors favor.
After the break, Auburn looked like a different team. They outscored Tantasqua 40-20, and their defense was excellent. The Warriors were well blocked around the net and didn't score until 4:49 of the third. The Rockets went from a 21 point deficit at the half to 9 at the 3/4 mark. The last few minutes of the game were outstanding for Auburn, and they tied it up with less than a minute to go. A single free throw put Tantasqua up 58-57, and the Rockets missed several baskets in the last few seconds.
The Rockets will begin the Clark Tournament on Monday at 1 p.m. when they face Bartlett. Leaders for Auburn were D.J. Scavone with 23 points, Tyler LaMonda with 13, and Tyler Simmons with 11.