With a chance to host area playoffs on the line, the Auburn High boys basketball team made an impressive comeback in front of its home crowd to beat area rival Central-Phenix City 61-56 in overtime on Friday night.
Two weeks ago, Central took Auburn the distance in Phenix City, with the Tigers pulling out a late win. Tonight was more of the same as the Red Devils kept Auburn from leading until overtime.
“This is unbelievable, Central is a very talented team,” said Auburn head coach Chris Brandt. “To pull this for a second time in a row, I don’t know how we do it. We’re just a resilient team and we kind of thrive under pressure for some reason.”
Close games are nothing new to this Auburn team. The Tigers have six wins by five points or less this season, with three of them coming in overtime.
“I’d rather them blow teams out, it does my body hard, it hurts my back,” Brandt said. “They trust each other and you can see that and they believe they’re gonna win. Right now, we have had three overtime games and have won them all.”
The Tigers dug themselves into multiple large deficits, but never let it get out of hand. Auburn struggled offensively throughout the game, but the stellar play on the defensive side by guard Jordan Franklin helped bring the Tigers back in the second half.
“Jordan is probably my best defender,” Brandt said. “He can guard a big, he can guard a guard, it doesn't matter. He stepped up and made some huge plays on the defensive end so we can get this ball.”
The crowd played a major role in the team’s performance. From start to finish, Tiger fans were up on their feet cheering the team on, even when things looked bad.
“A lot of energy — this is the best crowd we’ve had all year,” Brandt said. “They get to play in front of a huge crowd, and the energy, it was just unbelievable.”
Auburn stretched its winning streak to six games, including a four straight in area play. With the sweep over Central, Auburn also took a commanding lead in the race for area champs, earning a share of the area title with a 4-0 record.
The win improves Auburn’s overall record to 20-2 on the season, tying the 2020-21 team’s wins for most in a season since the 2016-17 season when the Tigers made it all the way to the 7A state championship.
Auburn has two games remaining in regional play. The first game will be on Tuesday when the Tigers travel to Smiths Station to take on the reigning area champs for the second time this season. The Tigers will then host their final area game and senior night on Friday when they host rival Opelika.
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